In the beginning…
- In 2002, long-time resident of Salida, Colorado and intrepid entrepreneur and environmentalist, Monty Holmes (a.k.a. “The Captain”) was seeking a way to grow his popular mine tour and to expand his business portfolio. Having experienced a zip line canopy tour in Costa Rica years before and excited by the opportunity to employ the popular zip line tour model in Central Colorado, he journeyed back to Central America to do more research. While zip line tours were fast gaining popularity in the lush rain forests of Central America, there were few examples in the United States. What Central Colorado lacked in lush forests, it more than made up for in scenic mountains views, slot canyons, and rugged rock cliffs. In 2004, Holmes put his construction background to work and launched Captain Zipline, Colorado’s first zip line tour. The tour was an immediate hit and drew accolades from the USA Today and other travel periodicals. Little did Holmes know that he was at the forefront of an industry that was set to boom.
- Spurred on by Colorado’s adventure-minded visitors and residents, Captain Zipline has continued to innovate and add attractions. Capitalizing on the frequent client request, “I’m ready for more,” Captain Zipline added a 120-element, European-style, aerial adventure park and Via Ferrata in 2013. The park remains the largest in Colorado and one of the largest in the Western United States.
The Long Road
- After more than a decade of operating the Lost Canyon Zipline Tour, it was time to seek the next BIG thing. The industry was expanding rapidly. New techniques were evolving along with standards and practices. And we were right there, soaking up all the training and education we could absorb so that this could then be passed on as a better experience for our guests.
- Since 2005, the zipline industry in Colorado has exploded from our lone, flagship operation to more than 40 commercial zipline tours and adventure parks. Zipline tours similarly seemed to be springing up all over the country as tourists caught on to this new adventure and sought out zipline experiences. Then, from Europe, a new concept emerged–the aerial adventure park.
- We were intrigued.
- And thus began our journey. Aerial adventure parks were well established in Europe (Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland have hundreds of them). While the U.S. already has 15,000 or more challenge courses, the European models were different. In the U.S., high ropes courses were primarily open to corporate, school, and youth groups, scheduled in advance and programs were facilitated to educational outcomes. The European models were different. Courses were massive with dozens (sometimes hundred) of elements and they were open to the individual on a pay-to-play basis. Courses appealed to individuals seeking outdoor adventure and recreation in a natural setting and were operated as a hybrid between outdoor climbing gyms and family entertainment centers.
- We were sold. We had to do this.
- And thus started our quest to bring the European Adventure Park concept ‘home’ to Colorado. While most aerial adventure parks were built in forests and contained a constellation of interconnected “elements” like bridges, catwalks, tight ropes, trapezes, ladders and other obstacles designed to challenge guests to balance, climb, swing, traverse and crawl, the Lost Canyon did not offer tall, mature trees or dense canopy. It did, however, offer opportunity.
- We need to do this differently.
- Our research of park models and designs began. Many U.S. and foreign adventure park builders were vetted before selecting a rapidly growing American firm which had strong ties to a Switzerland design firm. Initial design concepts were planned for the mesa along the canyon wall. While this was a solid plan, we thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be even better and more dramatic if we built the park inside the Lost Canyon surrounded (no, incorporated into) the ancient walls and topography?”
- …and that’s when things got really complicated.
- How were we going to set 60-foot utility poles in the canyon, some 150 feet below the rim? Further consultation and a 100-ton crane provided a solution. One-by-one, the poles were carefully lowered into the canyon and set in 8-foot footers. Within a few weeks, the backbone of the Canyon Aerial Course was in place.
- Once the poles were in the ground, the team began construction of a series of small platforms to attach at multiple levels on the erect wooden poles and along the rugged canon walls. The decks were then connected by cables, ropes, and boards forming the many routes. Finally, a flexible lifeline system was installed throughout the entire length of the courses. When construction ended, more than 120 different obstacles, suspended between utility poles and cliffs were joined together to create the largest aerial park in the Western United States.
- Captain Zipline guests had plenty to say. Massive. Awe-inspiring. Perfectly situated in the belly of the Lost Canyon. Super fun. Incredibly challenging. Just ‘Wow!’ Guests immediately took to the course and we knew we were on the right path.
- But what about the rugged canyon walls?
- Also popularized in Europe, another adventure awaited our guests: via ferrata. Via what? Via ferrata, known as the “iron way” is a means of constructing, anchoring and protecting routes along cliffsides and shear walls typically perceived as inaccessible. Via ferrata routes date back more than one hundred years and were instrumental in war times, including WWI and WWII, as a means of moving troops and equipment through the rugged mountains of Europe. Following the war, these iron highways continued in service, connecting remote villages and as a means to provide tourists access to mountains without requiring the the advanced skills of a mountain climber. They have been part of outdoors adventure activities in Europe for decades and are just now becoming popular in the United States.
- As designs for the Canyon Aerial Course progressed, staff were hard at work constructing via ferrata courses along the face of the colorful cliffs of the Lost Canyon. Upon completion of the Canyon Aerial Course, additional via ferrata routes were added, allowing guests to depart the canyon and access the mountainside. In all, four (4) via ferrata courses were installed and are now available as two (2) different tours.
- Always evolving…
- Journey to the center of it all. Captain Zipline in located just a few miles from the artsy mountain town of Salida, Colorado in the heart of the Rockies. Bordered by the Continental Divide and Collegiate Peaks, Salida is situated near the headwaters of the Arkansas River, America’s most rafted river, and party to incredible fishing, skiing, mountain biking, rock-hounding, and hiking. Join us for a half-day tour or for several days. Soar over the Lost Canyon, traverse the Canyon Aerial Course, and scale the colorful cliffs of the canyon by via ferrata. We’re always evolving. Come experience what we have and learn what might be next.
Your first ‘Bunny Zip’ trip! Visitors are instructed in how to use the equipment and practice zip lining technique at Ground School.
Guides practice rescue and participant assist procedures to retrieve a zip liner who failed to make the crossing and needed to be assisted across.
Group training to review procedures and practice rescue and operating skills…always striving to improve.
Guide attaches rescue equipment to the terminal end of the zip line cable in preparation to retrieve a participant during training.
More guide practice. What a great way to make a friend as once they’re roped in, they can’t get away.