Mechanical Wizard Keeps Thrill Rides Rolling

Mike Liebelt is a whiz at all things mechanical. As Lead Mechanic at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park he does whatever it takes to ensure thrill rides are open and ready for Park visitors.

While visitors to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park get an adrenaline rush from thrill rides like the Alpine Coaster, Giant Canyon Swing, Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, Canyon Flyer, Soaring Eagle Zip Ride and the Haunted Mine Drop, the Park’s Lead Mechanic Mike Liebelt gets his from making sure the rides perched on the pinnacle of a mountain in Glenwood Springs are all in top form and running like well-oiled machines.

Liebelt grew up living between Elitches and Lakeside, two Colorado amusement parks. The irony that he’s now employed at one isn’t lost on him. “I loved those parks when I was growing up. When I came here I quickly fell in love with Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park,” he said. “Working here is serendipitous and wonderful!”

Liebelt started as an attractions attendant in 2012, working at the Alpine Coaster. When the season ended he was hired on to spend the winter digging, clearing and expanding areas in the caves. Not only was he grateful for the job, he was all in for the laborious, difficult and exhausting work ahead. “For five months I smashed rocks. It was great,” he said, laughing at the memory. In 2014, he transferred to the maintenance department full time.

“Mike’s knowledge of rides is unmatched. He has been absolutely invaluable with his skills, experience, dedication and ‘can do’ attitude as well has his mentorship of new mechanics,” Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park General Manager, Nancy Heard said.

In the eight years since he began, Liebelt has been part of the installation of all thrill rides since the Alpine Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. In addition to Lead Mechanic, Liebelt is also Lead Ride Inspector certified through the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officers (NAARSO). For trainings he’s traveled to major theme parks including Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and Carowinds in North Carolina. The most recent training took place in-house with Utah-based Apollo Engineering and S&S Worldwide, the largest U.S. manufacturer of amusement park rides and roller coasters.

When it comes to his personal favorites—to work on and ride on—roller coasters are the hands-down winner for Mike Liebelt. He’s particularly excited for the new experience visitors will have on the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster beginning in the spring of 2020. “The Cliffhanger is being completely redone and will basically be a new ride when we’re through. It’s going to be all magnetic, with no moving parts. Guests will experience a smoother, quieter overall ride. My job right now is to make sure it’s open and ready to go by May 22,” he said. “I’m confident we’re going to make it.”

Mike Liebelt, Lead Mechanic at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Another ride that’s getting an overhaul under Liebelt’s eagle-eye is the Alpine Coaster. The Park’s first and most popular ride is being upgraded with new computers and receiving all-new wiring for its entire length along the mountainside. For guests, it will mean more fun and shorter wait times.

As Lead Mechanic, Liebelt is also the go-to guy when a ride experiences a problem. Sometimes closures are scheduled. When a ride undergoes a mandatory inspection, it may be closed for as long as a day. In that case, the Park posts the closure in advance at the base, the mountain-top and on the Glenwood Caverns website under Ride and Attraction Status.

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Other times mechanical issues arise. “We take a ride being down personally,” he said. “I happen to be very good at problem solving and can quickly diagnose and troubleshoot.” Liebelt is particularly proud of last summer’s nearly flawless operational record. “With safety as our number one priority, our goal is to keep every ride open and operating at all times.” When a ride does have to close down for a maintenance issue, Liebelt tells guests “not to worry, the average repair is completed within 30 minutes.”

What’s the best part of his work? “I love this job. On any given day I might be woodworking, painting, pouring concrete, fixing rides, doing maintenance or weekly inspections, but it’s the people that keep me here. I’ve never worked at a place that feels more like a family.” Liebelt is pretty sure guests feel the same vibe as well, “On a summer day, everywhere you go you see people—families and friends— smiling and having fun,” he said.  That’s reason enough for Mike Liebelt to keep those rides running day in and day out.

Lead Mechanic at Glenwood Caverns, Mike Liebelt often works behind signs like these. Authorized Personnel Only image by StickerMule

Achieve Your Vacation Goals in

With the world at your fingertips like never before, you can be sure to achieve your vacation goals—as long as you set those goals carefully. That requires some reflection and choices even before you start lining up specific plans.

Are you looking for a getaway from the routine? A chance to experience exotic cities or natural beauty? An enriching historical or cultural experience for your kids? A way to create treasured family memories? Ask not just where you want to go but why you want to go there. Once you’ve considered these questions, be sure to write down the answers—or, better yet, tell a friend about them. TheCompassIsCalling.com says that people who write down their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve them while those who tell others are 78 percent more likely.

Gather Ideas

Once vacation goals are established, consider the best strategy for achieving them. Would one trip of two or three weeks be more appropriate or several long weekends throughout the year? What are the places where you are most likely to have the experience you want? A fast-growing tool for this kind of research is Instagram—carefully filtered to avoid marketers and to define your choices precisely, it can show you the real experiences that other ordinary people have had on their vacations in those places. Jenni Fink in a Newsweek article provides a guide.

 

Plan Ahead & Save Money

Once you’ve matched a location to your vacation goals, planning the trip will become an exciting, targeted activity, according to the blogger Ramit Sethi. You will be able to investigate the most effective uses of time and money in that particular place, and you may discover that the destination can be enjoyed more economically than you expected. Also, your pre-planning gives you an opportunity to find discounts, choose affordable seasons, and even set aside money in a savings account regularly to cover costs. The less you put on the credit card while you’re on vacation, the more you’ll enjoy the trip—and the return.

Enjoy your Vacation

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. When you take the time to set shared strategic goals and carry out a plan to achieve them, you’ll have the pleasure of a successful preparation as well as a successful trip.

For a Colorado vacation that checks the boxes for family-friendly, affordable, thrills and new experiences, make plans to visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

May your 2020 journeys and destinations be rewarding!

Add More Mountain-top Thrills to Your Colorado Ski Vacation

When you’re skiing or snowboarding at the mountains of Aspen and Snowmass, Vail Resorts or Sunlight Mountain Resort, your Colorado ski vacation should be packed with peak experiences. Add even more high-elevation thrills with a day trip to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Skiing and riding the back bowls of Vail, down the face of Aspen Mountain, or a thigh-burner run on Ute at Sunlight Mountain Resort is the stuff of powder dreams come true. These Rocky Mountain resorts are part of the quintessential Colorado outdoor winter experience. While the bulk of your ski vacation will be spent slope-side, set just one day aside to explore adventuring options further afield.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs is located within easy driving distance of both Aspen area mountains and Vail Resorts. The proximity makes planning this day trip bunny-slope simple. As the highest elevation theme park in North America, the Adventure Park is as much an essential Colorado experience as first tracks in Blue Sky Basin on a powder day.

Other upsides of visiting Glenwood Springs include a respite for ski-fatigued bodies and the opportunity to relax in riverside hot springs.

Getting to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

  • From Vail, follow I-70 west for 60 miles. As you approach Glenwood Springs you’ll travel through Glenwood Canyon, one of the most stunning stretches of highway in the western U.S. At Glenwood Springs, take exit 116. Bear left through the round-about, turning right onto Highway 6 and left at Devereux Road.
  • Aspen is a short 40 miles away from Glenwood Springs; travel north via Highway 82 to Glenwood Springs. Continue through town, over the Grand Avenue Bridge. At the round-about turn right on Highway 6, then left at Devereux Road.
  • From Sunlight Mountain Resort, take Four Mile Road approximately 10 miles to Glenwood Springs and follow the same directions as if coming from Aspen.

The Height of Fun

Just like your experience on the slopes, your Caverns adventure begins with a gondola ride. The bright orange Glenwood Gondola cabins will whisk you up to the mountain-top park entrance. Along the way, take in spectacular views of snow covered Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley below.

After you step off the gondola, explore all the Adventure Park has to offer. Winter Fun  Passes are the best value and include your Gondola pass, as well as two cave tours and unlimited turns on rides and attractions. The Alpine Coaster lets you zoom down the mountainside at your own pace. Let out the throttle or take it easy; it’s up to you. As for the award-winning Haunted Mine Drop, it will leave you as breathless as the terrain at Aspen Highlands’ Steeplechase.

Cave tours are dazzling; chock-full of spectacular formations. Expert guides lead the way through the underground landscape imparting a custom blend of historical data, fun facts and engaging stories. Lighted displays show off the cave formations to their best advantage much like sculptural artwork in a high-end resort gallery.

Adventure Park visitors can also have fun at attractions like the laser tag arena, 4-D Theater and enjoy casual dining with a view in the Lookout Grille. Pick up some homemade fudge in the General Store to nibble on before heading back to ski towns.

While You’re In Glenwood Springs…

Plan to spend at least two to four hours enjoying Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Since Aspen, Vail and Sunlight Mountain Resort are all nearby, you’ll have time to relax with other Glenwood Springs activities as well. Ideas include:

Take your Vail, Aspen or Sunlight ski vacation to all-new heights. Plan your visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park today!