Thrill seekers are in for a treat as Zip World Fforest open the UK’s only Alpine Coaster.
It’s called the Fforest Coaster. And no, that’s not a typo. The one-of-a-kind downhill adventure is located in Wales, where one F just isn’t enough! Lets start by taking a ride.
Just like a traditional roller coaster, the Fforest Coaster starts with a powered lift hill which drags riders to the top of the course. The similarities end when the ‘sleds’ that the passengers sit in reach the peak and begin their downward decent. Unlike a normal rollercoaster where riders have no input, each sled on the Fforest coaster has its own manual braking system. This allows the rider to control the speed of the ride.
The Fforest coaster comes from German firm Wiegand, who’ve been responsible for many Alpine Coasters all over the world. You’ll notice that we’ve (awkwardly) worded the title of this post to state that Zip World’s ride is the UK’s only Alpine Coaster and not the UK’s first. This is because we did used to have a similar Alpine Coaster in Stoke-On-Trent. Located at Stoke Ski Slope, the ride operated between 2003 and 2007 and was around 425 meters long.
Zip World’s new coaster is over twice this length, featuring a 365 m upward lift (split into two sections) and a 710 m downhill slalom through the trees. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty tiny when you compare it to some of the German alpine coasters located on the side of mountains, but it’s still long enough to pick up a bit of speed and feel like you’ve gone on a bit of an adventure. Take a look at the layout shown in the planning document below;
The ride lasts for around 6 minutes, during which riders can reach speeds of up to a limited 25mph.
You read that correctly. The FForest coaster’s top speed is restricted to 25mph. Not gunna lie, this came as a massive disappointment. After all, Alpine Coasters are known specifically for the fact that you can ride them without using the brakes, reaching blistering speeds, all the way down the hill, whilst recording an onride video for YouTube entitled “CRAZY alpine coaster with NO BRAKES! Absolutely INSANE!”, which will then go viral and make the poster thousands in Ad Revenue. Soz Theme Park Review.
Jokes aside, it is 2017 and Health & Safety is definitely “a thing” now, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise. In fact the way in which the speeds are monitored and controlled is actually surprisingly advanced and rather interesting. Allow this diagram to explain;
Named the “Driver’s Assistance system”, it relies on magnetic eddy-current technology working in harmony with electronic sensors and control system. When the sled reaches 25mph the system automatically kicks in to slow it down. As well as limiting speed, the system acts as a spacer and ensures that all of the sleds are at least 25meters apart from each other at all times during the decent. This does unfortunately mean that if the person in front of you is a pansy and braking all the way down your sled will automatically be slowed down too.
There’s no denying that it detracts from the overall ride experience, however the safety benefits probably outweigh the lack of speed. Coupled with this, the cost of maintenance is likely to be less as magnetic brakes are non-contact and require less maintaining than traditional friction brakes.
But lets not get bogged down by the speed, the Fforest coaster is awesome! We really are lucky to have an Alpine Coaster of this length and quality in the UK. The setting couldn’t really be any better, with the track weaving in and out of the trees throughout the ride – the only obvious comment to make is “can we have another one that’s even longer?!”. With Zip World growing as quickly as it is and with multiple sites in Snowdonia, maybe we’ll have an answer to that question in the next few years!
It’s also definitely worth mentioning how friendly and accommodating the Zip World staff were, so thanks!
The Fforest coaster opened on 10th May and is located at Zip World Fforest, LL24 OHA. Riders must be 9 years old and 1.35 m or taller to ride unaccompanied. More details can be found on the official website.