Glenwood Caverns has announced their new record-breaking coaster, Defiance, which will feature 110-foot freefall drop at a beyond-vertical 102.3 degrees along with three inversions!
With a 110-foot freefall drop at a beyond-vertical 102.3 degrees and three disorienting inversions, Defiance, a new roller coaster coming next summer to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, would be plenty thrilling regardless of its location.
But here’s what will put it over the edge: It will straddle Iron Mountain, some 1,300 feet above the town and the Colorado River. You can start screaming now.
Representing the small park’s largest ride investment to date, Defiance will capitalize on Glenwood Caverns’ unique mountaintop location and provide new ways to experience its spectacular vistas.
“We thought this would be out of our league,” says Nancy Heard, the park’s general manager, referring to the extreme coaster. “And it is a bit of a stretch. But the view will be absolutely phenomenal. And the drop will take your breath away.”
According to Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the German-based company that will be manufacturing the custom coaster, Defiance will begin with a 75-foot vertical lift hill (passengers will probably want to empty their pockets before boarding) and momentarily slow to a crawl at its apex for what it has dubbed a “panorama stall.” Because this will be in Colorado, riders will really be up there where the air is rare – at 7,132 feet above sea level.
There won’t be too much time to take in the sights, however, as the eight-passenger trains will almost immediately plummet down the beyond-vertical drop. How could a coaster climb 75 feet and fall 110 feet? Navigating the park’s mountainous terrain, the track will descend into a ravine.
The park is bragging that Defiance will feature the steepest freefall drop in the Western U.S. In fact, Cannibal, a coaster at Lagoon in Utah, has a 116-degree drop.
The keyword, apparently, is “freefall.” As Gerald Ryan, technical manager at Ride Entertainment, the company that will be installing the coaster, explains, most beyond-vertical coasters include either holding brakes to stop the train or trim brakes to slow it down. Defiance, however, will be a “true, gravity-driven freefall drop,” he says.
Regardless of the record-breaking claims, it will surely be a freaky ride experience as the track folds in on itself. Helping to ensure a freaky ride experience: The seats will forego over-the-shoulder restraints and only use ratcheting lap bars.
“You’ll be suspended at the top of the mountain looking down at Glenwood Springs before you disappear into the abyss with nothing but a lap bar,” Heard says. “Oh my God!”
Gerstlauer, by the way, is known for its beyond-vertical coaster drops. It manufactured TMNT Shellraiser at Nickelodeon Universe in New Jersey, the world’s steepest coaster at 121.5 degrees.
After dropping and revving up to 56 mph, passengers will brave a “twisted top hat” that will invert them before sending the train racing in a different direction, a “banana roll” that will flip them yet again, and a final “zero-G roll” that will toss them while simultaneously sending them rising through the element. Less than a minute after they began their mountaintop journey, the riders will return to the station.
They’ll be comin’ round the mountain
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime location,” says Ed Hiller, CEO of Ride Entertainment. Installing the coaster may pose once-in-a-lifetime challenges. Glenwood Caverns visitors park at the base of the mountain and ride in a gondola to its summit. To access the park, service vehicles climb a narrow, steep, dirt road that includes several switchbacks. Just getting the equipment, track, and other materials to the top of Iron Mountain will require lots of planning and deft handling.
For example, Heard says semitrailers bound for the park have great difficulty turning around. “We’ll probably have to unload the trailer, take a crane, lift the flatbed up and turn it 180 degrees so we can point it back downhill.” (Which raises the question: How will they get a crane up there?)
In addition to delivery concerns, Ride Entertainment will have to contend with the site’s hilly terrain as well as likely snow, ice, and wind during the installation, which is scheduled to begin in the early spring.
Had the park been able to go with its initial concept, the installation would be even trickier. “Originally, we wanted the coaster to go off the edge of the cliff,” says Heard. That design proved to be cost-prohibitive, however.
If going off the edge of the cliff sounds appealing, Glenwood Caverns has just the ride for you. Its Giant Canyon Swing hits 50 mph as its pendulum arm arcs about 90 degrees into the ether with nothing but the Colorado River 1,300 feet below.
In 2017, the park opened the Haunted Mine Drop. The only drop tower ride to start at ground level and plummet down, it freefalls 110 feet into Iron Mountain’s inky darkness. Other attractions include two smaller roller coasters, an alpine coaster and a zip line-like ride that passengers can experience by sitting in side-by-side seats.
Glenwood Caverns began adding rides in 2005 to help occupy visitors waiting to enter its two mountaintop caves. Now the attractions have become key features of the adventure park. The new coaster will take it to another level.
“Defiance is going to be a big shot in the arm, especially post-COVID,” Heard says, apparently not recognizing the pun. “It shows our commitment.”