Zip Line: Fun and Fast Family Adventure
One of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities in Indiana is the gravity-fueled zip line.
Simply put, “zipping” is an activity where the user is strapped into a harness affixed to a pulley that rides on a downward-sloping steel cable. The user then rides the rig, at speeds from relaxing to exhilarating, through meadows, across wooded hillsides and even over lakes. Many companies offer night tours and if you travel across the Ohio River to Louisville, Kentucky, you can slide completely underground on a zip line in Louisville’s famed Megacavern.
According to Indiana Zipline owner Bill Hallettt, people love zip lines because, “It’s an adventure and it’s exhilarating. It’s almost like being a bird,” he said. Bill must know what he is talking about because last year Indiana Zipline was voted Best Zip Line in Indiana by Indianapolis Monthly magazine. Among other things, the course offers a 2000’ slide, the longest in Central Indiana.
With a growing number of zip line courses in the state, what should a first-timer know and consider before taking that first slide?
The activity is suitable for a wide range of ages and physical abilities since the rider doesn’t really do anything except enjoy the passing scenery and the sensation of flying eighty feet or more in the air. While some courses are just a single line (typically at private camps or recreation areas), all commercial
A guide at Indiana Zipline Tours briefs the guests before the tour beings
operators in the state offer multiple line courses that will take at least an hour or two to traverse.
As a large vertical drop is required for the system to operate, there is usually some type of climbing involved though many operators try to minimize climbs in order to maximize guest enjoyment. “People are surprised that there is not a lot of physical exertion; we only have 11 steps,” said Bill Hallettt, though some zip line courses require climbing towers or other elevated platforms.
Indiana Zipline minimized climbing by starting the course on a bluff and eventually gliding down into the Sugar Creek valley where a bus transports visitors back to the office.
People who are deathly afraid of heights or falling might reconsider but most courses are set up to help minimize such concerns. “We’ve only had a few that decided not to go forward,” notes Indiana Zipline co-owner Cori Hallettt. “Once they do the first line, they realize it’s more of a glide and not a jump (off the platform).”
On the other hand, make sure you understand the facility you will be using. Some zip lines include treetop rope courses that are sure to bring out the acrophobia (fear of heights) in sufferers. Every course is unique and may or may not fit the individual preferences within your group.
Even those with mobility challenges can zip line as most courses aren't too physically demanding
Indiana Zipline will take children as young as three years old while others have higher minimums, usually 10 or 12-years old. In most cases, there is a weight limit but there are also several tandem rigs in Indiana that offer the thrill of soaring with a friend. Obviously, pregnant women and those with injuries or significant medical problems should not use a zip line. Otherwise, anyone healthy enough to walk into the office is welcome. “Our only stipulations are closed-toe shoes and a weight limit of 275 pounds,” Cori Hallett said.
Safety is always a concern among both guests and course operators though Indiana has only seen a few minor injuries and no fatalities associated with zip line courses, unlike other places. With any new, rapidly expanding industry there are worries of less-than-reputable operators.
When asked about choosing a zip line facility Hallett said, “Make sure the course and guides are certified and ask about insurance.” Moreover, she added that you should heed any inner concerns you have about the facilities, maintenance or professionalism of the staff. “When you drive up, you sorta know (if the course is safe and well-maintained),” she pointed out.
At Indiana Zipline, the course itself is certified by the builder and insurance carrier while all 14 guides are likewise trained and certified. “Our guides are awesome,” Cori said, “They have to have 40 hours of flight time and we go through intensive training with them. Most of them returned from last year.”
Zip lining at night adds a whole other dimension to the thrill. Many courses offer some type of low-light fun but it is usually a bit more expensive. “We have to add additional guides at night for safety,” Cori Hallett noted.
Being a "Zipper" is fun for all ages
The zip line season runs April through October though most operators will make other accommodations depending on weather and available staff. “Fall is a really beautiful time to zip line and we’ve done a few over snow. It’s really neat,” Cori said.
Weather isn’t a big factor. For example, while other outdoor businesses have suffered due to this summer’s rain and high water, Indiana Zipline has had a great season. Hallett explained that tours continue even in light rain so long as there isn’t lightning. As most summer storms last minutes rather than hours, there are few cancellations.
A zip line course provides a great way for a family or group of friends to share a few hours of adrenaline-filled outdoor action within a safe, controlled environment. With locations all over the state, there are plenty of opportunities to take the plunge and soar with the birds over Indiana’s wonderful wildlands.