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Meet Sam Brager, Ace of the Alpine Coaster

A member of Glenwood Caverns’ maintenance crew, Sam Brager ensures the Alpine Coaster—the Adventure Park’s number one ride—keeps rolling especially on days when there’s a mechanical hiccup or two.

When asked about his favorite ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Sam Brager who works in the maintenance department didn’t hesitate. “I’m partial to the Alpine Coaster; it’s my baby.” Indeed. Brager makes sure that the Adventure Park’s first-ever thrill ride runs smoothly every day the park is open. “The Alpine Coaster is our most popular ride, and it never gets a day off so to speak.” That’s where the skills of this seasoned mechanic and all-around Mr. Fix-it come in.

From Motorcycles to Adventure Rides

Alpine Coaster is a favorite ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure ParkA former Harley Davidson mechanic, Brager relocated to the Roaring Fork Valley from Madison, Wisconsin, to work for the motorcycle franchise in Glenwood Springs. But when the dealership closed, he found himself on the hunt for a new job. Brager’s skills proved handy doing home and property maintenance in Aspen. Dissatisfied with the long commute, Brager searched for work closer to his residence in Glenwood Springs. He reached out to Nancy Heard, general manager at the Adventure Park; though a position wasn’t available at the time, the two stayed in contact and when one opened, Brager jumped aboard. That was a year ago.

For Brager Expecting the Unexpected is Part of the Job

After learning the ropes, Brager took over the maintenance of the Alpine Coaster. His day starts before the first guests arrive—inspecting coaster cars, taking a couple of runs down the track, clearing it of any debris, and checking the ride’s mechanical systems. “My perfect day is one where there are no maintenance calls,” he joked. Does that happen? Rarely. “We’re on top of a mountain, things break, weather can impact us.” Because maintenance issues are inevitable, Brager and his team do their best to control what they can and roll with the punches. “Sure, it can be a little stressful when the ride goes down but it’s an opportunity for us to come in wearing our capes and save the day,” Brager said. He emphasized that except for a major breakdown, the average downtime for the Alpine Coaster due to a mechanical issue is just 5 to 15 minutes.

But the job is full of surprises. “You never know what a day has in store up here,” Brager said. “Yesterday, I got a call that there was a snake in the caves. Sure enough, it was at Exclamation Point and by the looks of it, it had just finished eating a packrat or ground squirrel. He was just chillin’ but we relocated him. There’s never a dull moment and that’s what I love.”

Helpful Advice That Comes in Handy

It isn’t just snakes that cause anxiety, riding the Alpine Coaster can be scary, especially for youngsters. Brager likes to make kids feel comfortable and confident on their first experience down the track. “My little trick is to tell them to make race car noises as they go around the corners. My dad taught me that trick when we went skiing and I was nervous about cutting through the trees,” he explained. “It made it fun, and it helped.”  Brager especially likes when he sees those same kids elated afterward and queuing up to ride the Alpine Coaster all over again. “It’s such a cool thing to share a love of this ride and this mountain.”

In addition to his gearhead skills, Brager is a natural-born host who welcomes visitors to enjoy all the Adventure Park has to offer. His recommendations for guests include taking a turn on the thrill rides they are most excited about early in their visit to ensure they have an opportunity to ride them at least once. For those who would rather skip the thrill rides, he recommends the views, the food and the cave tours. “We’re very lucky to have two of the best caves in the state; they are the whole reason this place exists!”

The next time you’re having a screaming good time flying down the mountainside on the Alpine Coaster, you can thank Sam Brager who keeps that baby rolling. Read more articles about America’s only mountaintop theme park and make plans to visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park today!