by Dave Preston | PeachlandNews
May 2, 2011
Imagine for a moment being on the roof of Skye at Waterscapes. At 26 stories and 256 feet high, it is both the tallest building in Kelowna and the tallest between Vancouver and Calgary. It’s high. Really high. But Skye’s reach upward pales in comparison to what’s coming to Peachland.
No, it’s not a building. What is coming and what is oh so much higher than Skye is a half-inch wide cable suspended between two poles over the Deep Creek gorge.
The cable is 1,500 feet long and at its midpoint, the creek gurgles along, moving spring mountain meltwater to Okanagan Lake, a dizzying 350 feet below.
Short of getting in a hot air balloon or an aircraft, you can’t get higher in the Okanagan than zipping along the cable of Hang Time — the first of six ziplines at Peachland’s newest adventure park.
Hang Time is so high off the floor of the gorge that it is, right now, the tallest zipline in North America. It will soon take second place, as an even higher line is being built in New York state.
ZipZone Adventures is the brain child of Peachlander Kevin Bennett.
“I retired three years ago,” Bennett said Monday morning, giving PeachlandNews.com the first glimpse at his zipline creation.
Bennett said he is a person who needed a hobby business. He took a trip 18 months ago to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and found himself on a zipline.
“I got half way across and my mind started going,” said Bennett.
With quadding experience in and around the Deep Creek gorge, Bennett said he knew the perfect location for a new zipline adventure park. The idea was born and then the work began.
Last fall, workers opened up long ago abandoned logging spurs on both sides of the Deep Creek gorge. It’s difficult to believe logging trucks and equipment navigated the steep gorge walls, but the narrow, windy roads have now become trails linking the ends of each zipline in the park.
“The whole forest is a fire hazard,” said Bennett. “We took out as much debris as we could.”
Forest fire fuel mitigation work has been ongoing on at the site. Dead trees have been removed, ladder fuels cut away and a bed of pine needles and debris has been cleared from the forest floor.
ZipZone has six active ziplines and each required two telephone poles to be sunk five feet in the ground to hold the zipline cables. The poles are special Class 1 Douglas fir trees, specially treated in Oregon and then shipped to Peachland.
The cables themselves were manufactured in South Korea and have a breaking strength of 32,000 pounds, according to Bennett. Specially made, the cables are designed to provide a smooth ride for the thousands of visitors expected each year.
Vision Leadership, a zipline construction company from Seattle, is on site constructing the zipline infrastructure. These days, workers are ‘tuning’ the ziplines.
People from 70 pounds to 275 pounds will be able to zip above the Deep Creek gorge, and Bennett said tuning involves setting the lines just right so that a 70 pound child doesn’t slow down and get stuck in the middle and a 275 pound adult doesn’t pick up so much momentum that it becomes a danger when it’s time to stop.
Construction has gone beyond putting up ziplines at ZipZone Adventures. Bennett said he has a deep, personal interest in First Nations and the trails will become interpretive walks for visitors. Learning about native culture and the wilderness will be a big part of ZipZone.
Bennett also loves puzzles and visitors will be encouraged to play with outdoor puzzles, including a giant Jenga-like block puzzle.
The ZipZone Adventure Park is located exactly eight kilometres up Princeton Avenue from the traffic lights at Hwy. 97. From the Peachland compost site, it’s just a three-minute drive to the site.
There will be a total of seven ziplines. The first will be a 100-foot long training line, just 10 feet off the ground. Bennett said it will give guests the chance to get comfortable with their harnesses and experience what it is like to fly above the ground.
Then comes the big one.
Hang Time is the first of the active ziplines. At 350 feet above the creek, the idea behind the line was to give guests time to enjoy the spectacular mountain view, according to Bennett.
Two guides will travel with each group of guests, said Bennett. One guide will zip along a line to the end and set a braking system. The other guide will stay at the start point, assisting each guest from the take off point. That guide will be the last of the group to zip to the end, then the procedure repeats for successive ziplines.
The starting point of Hang Time is at the edge of a parking lot, on the north side of the Deep Creek gorge. The park’s tagline is Come Get High at ZipZone and it is Hang Time where guests will get higher than anywhere else; so high, in fact, that Bennett said guests zipping along on the first zipline will be able to look down and see eagles soaring above the creek.
From the highest line, Hang Time, guests will take the fastest line, Tunnel Vision. Guests will zip along at about 50 km/h between very tall trees and land on a platform on the creek’s north side. Then it’s a short walk through a trail dubbed Moose Alley to perhaps the freakiest zipline in the park.
Step Into Space is the name of the third zipline and it is aptly named. From the starting platform, the gorge wall simply falls away at a severe angle. Guests will simply step off into space before zipping across to the south side of the gorge.
From Step Into Space, guests will then take T-Rex, which was named after the excavation company working on the project. Then it’s on to Paradise Valley and, finally, the last, and perhaps most exhilarating, zipline of all.
The Power Line is the sixth and final zipline at ZipZone. Standing on the north side of the gorge and looking across to the starting point of The Power Line, one can only imagine the feeling the first few seconds will produce.
“When you leave, you are basically freefalling,” said Bennett.
Children as young as seven-years-old will be able to go ziplining and Bennett said they will be accompanied by a guide along each zipline.
Bennett said prices have been set at $89 for adults and $69 for youth aged seven to 14. The entire experience will take about four hours.
A tepee, made by a First Nations company, will serve as the safety briefing room and Bennett said he has hired a First Nations expert and a wilderness expert to explain the flora and fauna of the area.
Every month during the zipline season, ZipZone will feature Dangle in the Dark — an especially exciting adventure ride for those who want to experience ziplining on moonlit nights.
“It will be very much a sensory experience,” said Bennett, adding guests won’t be able to tell when the end of each zipline experience will be due to light conditions.
Bennett has also been working with other businesses to create package deals. Zip and Trip will feature a half day of ziplining followed by a half day with Okanagan ATV Tours. Zip and Sip will see zipliners sampling wine at Greata Ranch and Zip and Dip will combine ziplining with kayaking on Okanagan Lake.
ZipZone Adventures opens June 1, according to Bennett.
Check out our photos of ZipZone in the Photo Gallery.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from the original. The correct length for ‘Hang Time’ is now shown in the story.