Feature Article - April 2012
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Reaching New Heights

The Evolution of Climbing Walls & Challenge Courses

By Chris Gelbach

A Taste for Adventure

Facilities looking for a challenge course-style attraction with more revenue-generating punch than educational appeal may also consider a zip line or canopy tour. According to Bradd Morse of Canopy Tours Inc., who recently opened New York Zipline Adventure Tours at the Hunter Mountain ski resort—which includes the fastest, longest and highest zip line in North America—zip lines are the fastest-growing form of ecotourism in the world. "The reason is that the financial model of the zip line tour and these adventure parks are most unique and quite profitable," he said. "The overhead is minimal, the impact to the land is minimal, and you can highlight and show off your area in a way that's most unique."

According to Morse, zip lines and aerial adventure parks have become so successful, in part, because of a perception of risk that outstrips reality. "You just think what you're doing is crazy, and that's what sells the tickets, but it's really quite safe for the most part."

And because they require nothing of participants other than the courage to step off the platform, zip lines are attracting patrons who might find a high ropes course or climbing wall too daunting. "They're like the entry into more advanced tours," Morse said. "Once people realize 'I can do this because it's pretty safe,' then they're more likely to go and try an obstacle or challenge course."

But Morse also stressed that a zip line isn't right for everybody. "You've got to look at where you're at, where you're going, what the community around you has. There's no right formula."

The same could be said of climbing walls and challenge courses. All three can offer memorable, unconventional and rewarding experiences for patrons—should you decide the time and situation is right to take your facilities to new heights.