Manju Vadmal, looking like a rock climber in his harness and blue plastic helmet, hangs from a steel cable that stretches for hundreds of metres high above the forest of Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain.
“Flyers clipped in and ready for launch,” our guide, Joe, says into his radio as he runs through a NASA-style checklist.
And then gravity pulls Vadmal, a 42-year-old doctor visiting from Los Angeles, along the zip line between this peak and the next, the relative silence of the mountaintop replaced by the wind rushing past his ears.
It takes less than a minute to reach the safety of the wooden platform on the other side, but it’s enough time to take in the 360-degree views of the Vancouver-area’s coastal mountains and the forests 100 metres below, the ground still covered in snow on a sunny June day.
“It’s exciting, you can see everything from the sky,” Vadmal says after the tour. “You get an aerial view, you can see everything underneath you.”
The Air Grouse zip lines are the newest addition to Grouse Mountain, a winter ski resort that opens up to hikers, nature lovers and thrill seekers in the off season, and one of several attractions in the area that lift visitors off the forest floor and up into the trees.
There are other zip lines in B.C., particularly two similar operations in Whistler, B.C., but Air Grouse is less than a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver.
The zip-line facility opened last year with three lines at the top of the mountain. This season, two more were added that take riders back and forth between Grouse and nearby Dam Mountain.
The tour begins with a beginner’s line, a slow cruise from the “flight centre” (you don’t ride the zip lines, you “fly” across them), while another reaches speeds of 80 kilometres per hour. All of the lines end with a loud and sudden stop as the trolley attached to the lines crashes into a long spring at the end.
It costs $110 for a two-hour tour, most of which is spent walking between lines and waiting for others in the group to have their turn.
In all, visitors spend less than five minutes actually riding on the lines, but the facility hopes this unique way to experience the mountain will be enough to justify the hefty price tag.
“It’s almost a bird’s-eye view, you get to look at things a little different,” says zip line manager Toby Barrett.
“It’s a fun experience to get out in the mountains in a different way, you get to experience the speed and the thrill of flying along these lines.”
There are cheaper, and slower, ways to immerse yourself in the coastal mountains and forests in the Vancouver area.
Seemingly endless paths wind for kilometres through the old-growth forests of North Vancouver, both at the top of mountains like Grouse (accessible by the same eight-minute tram ride that takes visitors to the zip lines) and at city-level.
“This is a bit smaller, not so spectacular. But it shows you another part of nature, being able to look down on it.”
For more information, see www.grousemountain.com