Those of us who love rollercoasters must concede that the view is rarely part of the attraction. Whether you are on the Big One at Blackpool, the Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi or the Rock and Roller Coaster at various Disney parks, if you open your eyes long enough all you are likely to see is the occasional glimpse of flat terrain.
Fforest Coaster, located just north of Betws-y-Coed in North Wales, and just outside the Snowdonia National Park, is different. The main appeal of the UK’s first “Alpine Coaster” or “Mountain Coaster” is the terrain: a steep, wooded hillside on the east side of the River Conwy, with a track that twists through the trees.
A short, sharp climb from the main road takes you to the base station, where passengers queue to board sledges — either individually, or in pairs. Then a long climb begins, with a steel cable dragging the sledge uphill, adding around 1,000 feet in elevation in a few minutes.
On the way you can familiarise yourself with the controls: an emergency stop button, which should normally not be deployed, and brake levers which you are encouraged to use. You can also listen to a soundtrack usually absent from theme parks: birdsong.
At the top, the track swerves left and you drop down. But unlike the typical rollercoaster, you don’t lose control, you gain it. After an obligatory, automatic stop, the fun begins. Ease off the brakes, and you accelerate swiftly into a series of sharp bends, the track banked to help cope with the conflict between gravity and lateral forces.
Nature is at work in all her glory, which spells a treat: racing downhill far faster than even a maniacal mountain biker could achieve, passing just feet from trees at speeds of up to 25mph. “Brake!” urge signs before the tightest bends, and you do — the first time around, at least.
If you’re counting, there are 10 bends in the swooping descent down to the base station. As you slow to a stop, the wild-eyed grin of the rollercoaster fan after a first descent spreads across your face.
Fortunately for early adopters, not only are there very few queues — there is also an opening offer of three rides for £15. Trips two and three were even more appealing, as I concluded that the Brake! instruction was actually optional, with enough safety built in to take those corners at top speed. Gravity is your friend, especially on a Welsh hillside.
The concept is already well established in Europe, in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. There are also sites across the US. The hardware is expensive; the Fforest Coaster cost £1.3m to install. But if the North Wales prototype proves successful, expect a fast track to arrive swiftly at a hillside near you.Reuse content