I committed myself to go full-bore down the new Glade Runner mountain coaster at Bogus Basin.
It’s a gravity-driven ride on more or less a one-person sled, though it can seat two. You control the speed. Push the handles forward and you go the maximum speed gravity allows, about 25 mph. Pull the handles back and you can slow down if the ride becomes too harrowing.
Harrowing it is. Even at what sounds like a tame 25 mph. Believe me, when you’re sitting in a tiny sled on a tiny track, 25 mph feels like black diamond ski velocity when you’re flying among trees at close quarters.
But Bogus Basin staff assure riders that the sled is safe at any speed that you and gravity can produce. The only question is the comfort level of the rider.
Glade Runner is one of a number of improvements Bogus Basin has made in recent months to a) extend the recreation area’s revenue season throughout the year, b) provide alternative revenue during fallow snow periods and c) add more non-ski attractions. Several years ago, the board of the nonprofit ski area also started actively attracting hikers and mountain bikers and offering summer camp programs, and officially changed its name from “ski area” to “mountain recreational area.”
The ride starts with a mechanical lift to the high point of the 4,330-foot track. Then, as the sled turns right, a staffer reminds riders of the “push to go, pull to slow mantra,” and down you go.
The first couple hundred feet are tame. Then there’s another right turn and gravity kicks in.
It may sound like 25 mph isn’t much but you aren’t in the comfort of a car on a nice wide road. You’re on a tiny sled on a tiny track rattling through the woods just outside Simplot Lodge. Each curve, each loop and each dip put you in the front seat of your own action-hero scenario.
Wiegand Sports has 25 Alpine Coaster mountain coasters in operation in the U.S., but most run over open terrain. Glade Runner whisks within the forest sometimes close to the ground/snow and at one point 40 feet above terra firma.
I kept my sled at max speed through both loops. I’m not one to whoop and holler, but I admit to feeling varying exaltations throughout the run. Frankly, it was easier – and more fun – to make noise than to be silent.
A Glade Runner ride costs $15 for one and $25 if you can fit two people on the tiny sleds. The cost is similar to that of the other U.S. mountain coasters, though Bogus appears to have the longest coaster in North America, according to the websites of the other U.S. mountain coasters.
Glade Runner has rules. You can’t take pictures while riding and you have to keep 80 feet between you and the sled ahead of you. All you can do is hope you don’t have a slow rider ahead of you.
A warning from the staff: If you drop something, it’s gone – at least until the snow melts.
If you go full-speed, Glade Runner gives a sensation of a black diamond ski run through the trees. While a terror-inducing roller coaster in a theme park offers its own surprises, the forest backdrop at Bogus certainly adds a bonus element to the mountain coaster, and makes the ride a very Idaho-themed experience.
Teya Vitu is a reporter covering Idaho real estate, construction and mountain roller coasters at the Idaho Business Review.