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

The World’s Most Bizarre Theme Parks

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is located on top of a mountain which is pretty unusual, but nothing compared to these bizarre theme parks from around the world.

Want to go to a real hellish house of horrors this Halloween? You can choose Haw Par Villa in Singapore or Suoi Tien Amusement Park in Vietnam. If you’re more reality-inclined, you can re-enact life in a real Soviet bunker in Lithuania or attempt a scary simulated border crossing in Mexico. If you just prefer gross-out humor, take the kids to BonBon World in Denmark. You can find a theme for pretty much any amusement in parks around the world. Here are some of the most bizarre theme parks, just in time for Halloween!

Haw Par Villa, Singapore

This Asian cultural park, built in 1937 and once known as Tiger Balm Garden, features history, philosophy, traditional rituals and religion along a red brick road. You’ll find tigers, leopards, dragons, goats, pandas, rabbits, gorillas, lobsters and a crab-lady. You can also enter the Ten Courts of Hell for a preview of, say, what it takes to get dismembered and drowned in a pool of blood. Afterwards, you can contemplate life in a real coffin.

Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park, Vietnam

Suoi Tien, Vietnamese for “Fairy Stream,” is devoted to Southeast Asian Buddhism’s animistic themes—instead of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, you’ll find the Dragon, the Unicorn, the Tortoise and the Phoenix, as well as workers in golden monkey outfits. There’s a huge golden dragon with a neon-lit shrine to Buddha, pillars shaped like elephant tusks and a giant rotating frog. The waterslides come from the beards of twelve Buddhist sages, and you can feed raw meat to 1,500 crocodiles in a pond. Don’t be fooled by the Palace of Unicorns name—inside is Buddhist hell, with a vivid display of how drug addicts, gamblers and adulterers will be tortured.

Soviet Bunker, Lithuania

This is an actual Soviet bunker, built in 1984, where you can relive life in those Communist-ruled days. Many of the staff to guide you through the three-hour “1984: Survival Drama in a Soviet Bunker” were Soviet guards. The space is about 20 feet underground, includes over 32,000 square feet of tunnels and rooms, and a roof designed to withstand a nuclear bomb. The aim is education as well as entertainment. Some people faint. While you’re in Lithuania, check out Grūtas Park, also known as Stalin’s World, a 50-acre sculpture garden of Soviet leaders designed to resemble a prison camp.

Parque EcoAlberto, Mexico

Along with its gorgeous views, rivers and mountains, this ecotourism park offers visitors a realistic simulation of what it’s like to attempt a border crossing into the United States. The four-hour nighttime hike led by an actor-coyote includes the tension and danger of the trip. The event was established by the Hñahñus, local Native Americans, to discourage border crossings, educate outsiders and boost the local economy so that leaving isn’t the only option.

BonBon Land, Denmark

A candy manufacturer who marketed his products as Seagull Droppings, Ear Wax, and Dog Fart made a killing with potty-joke lovers of all ages, so he opened a similarly-themed park in 1992. The bathroom humor extends to the rides and statues in a country with relaxed standards of lowbrow amusement and is considered family-friendly. Attractions include the Worm, the Stud, Seagull Blobs, Horses Bulbs, Fold Cod, Crow Trees, the Horse Dropping, the Crazy Turtle, Skid Mark, Dunce Cap, and Rubbish Dump. The most popular ride is the Dog Fart Switchback with a huge, and noisy, canine statue.

Thank goodness, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has good old scary thrill rides like the Haunted Mine Drop, Cliffhanger Roller Coaster and the Giant Canyon Swing—all plenty scream-worthy for Halloween! See you soon at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, a not so bizarre theme park!

Ups and Downs of Roller Coasters

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster
Cliffhanger Roller Coaster

The Cliffhanger Roller Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is the highest elevation coaster in North America. Check out these other record-breaking roller coasters.

 Fifty feet tall, perched at an altitude of 7,160 feet and hugging the side of Iron Mountain, the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster edges out all other coasters on the continent. A crowd-pleaser, its cliff-side curves and heart-stopping drop offs make it a must-ride attraction for coaster aficionados and thrill-seekers. From the ride’s pinnacle are views of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon, 1,450 feet below!

Amusement parks for decades have competed to build the tallest, fastest, longest, scariest coasters. The first coaster that reached 100 feet tall was Serpent of Fire at La Feria Chapultepec Magico in Mexico City in 1964. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, was the first to cross the 200-foot mark (Magnum XL-200, 201 feet in 1989), the 300-foot mark (Millennium Force, 310 feet in 2000, and the 400-foot mark (Top Thrill Dragster, 420 feet in 2003), but Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, set the current record at 456 feet in 2005. Kingda Ka also has the longest drop, at 418 feet, and the second-fastest speed, 128 mph, surpassed by Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Dubai in 2010 at 149.1 mph.

The longest steel roller coaster is Steel Dragon 2000, at 8,133 feet, built in 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land in Japan. The use of steel-tube rails for roller coasters, pioneered at Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1959, accelerated development of twists, turns, and inversions. The record for inversions on a steel roller coaster is 14, set by The Smiler at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, England, in 2013, while the record for inversions on a wooden roller coaster is three, reached by Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., in 2013 and tied by Wildfire at Bråviken bay, Norrköping, Sweden, in 2016.

Wildfire is also tied with T Express at Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, for the tallest wooden roller coaster at 183.8 feet. Goliath at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., holds the record for longest wooden rollercoaster drop, 180 feet, set in 2014. Lightning Rod at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., built in 2016, is the fastest wooden roller coaster, 73 mph. The Beast, built in 1979 at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, is the longest, 7,359 feet.

Shuttle roller coasters, which run back and forth instead of making a complete circuit, have not developed as rapidly in recent years. The tallest, 415-foot-tall Superman: Escape from Krypton, was built at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., and the fastest, 100-mph Tower of Terror at Dreamworld in Gold Coast, Australia, were both built in 1997. The longest, 1,480-foot-long Mr. Freeze, was built at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington in 1998.

The oldest still-operating rollercoaster is Leap-The-Dips, built at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pa., in 1902. Other individual records for different styles of rollercoaster include:

  • Stand-Up – The Riddler’s Revenge at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the tallest, fastest, and longest (156-feet tall, 146-foot drop, 65 mph top speed, 4,370 feet long).
  • Inverted – Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the tallest and fastest and has the largest drop (195-feet tall, 170-foot drop, 67 mph top speed), but the longest is Banshee at Kings Island (4,124 feet).
  • Flying – Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the tallest, fastest, and longest (170 feet high, 62 mph top speed, 3,602 feet long).
  • Floorless – Superman Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas has the largest drop (168-feet) and is the fastest (70 mph). Dominator at King’s Dominion is the tallest (161 feet) and longest (4,210-feet long).
  • Largest Arrow Mega-Looper – Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the tallest and has the most inversions (188 feet tall, 7 inversions).

Ride the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and learn more about our other scream-worthy thrill rides at www.glenwoodcaverns.com.

Let the Fear Be Part of the Fun!

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster
Cliffhanger Roller Coaster

Conquer your fear and experience the fun of adrenaline-pumping thrill rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Let the Fear Be Part of the Fun!

When it comes to roller coasters, the fear is part of the fun—unless it keeps you from taking the ride. Many people want to join the thrill ride—or at least not just stand and watch their friends at the park—but can’t overcome that fear, so Harvard Medical School professor Brian Newmark and clinical psychologist Michael Otto developed the Coasterphobia Stress Management Program nearly 20 years ago.

Coasterphobia is not a medical diagnosis— reluctance to ride won’t cripple your life like other fears— but it often bears traces of other recognized fears such as acrophobia (heights),  illygnophobia (vertigo), claustrophobia (tight spaces), social phobia (embarrassment), mysophobia (contact with germs), emetophobia (vomiting). Sometimes the fear results from a childhood experience. The fear, anxiety, panic, and/or dread can lead to shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, and nausea.

One of the 15 members of the first Coasterphobia Stress Management Program class, Erik Minton, wrote about his experience for Psychology Today. Participants were encouraged to trust the engineers who had designed the rides, then were put through some preparatory routines: “We tensed and untensed muscles to learn to relax. We did breathing exercises. We circled our heads to induce dizziness. We rocked back and forth in our chairs to simulate a coaster’s motion. Then we circled our heads while rocking. We screamed, which Otto pointed out not only forces you to breathe on the coaster but is part of the ride’s fun. We watched a passenger perspective video of The Incredible Hulk, rocking as we did so.” For graduation, the group rode The Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando Resort— and each one went on at least twice.

Free advice online will suggest taking baby steps or starting with the biggest coaster you fear, closing your eyes or opening them, staying in control of whether your ride or telling your friends to carry you on if necessary. Here are Otto’s professional tips:

  1. Make sure you are not being pressured or pushed into riding the roller coaster; this will only add to the feeling of not being in control.
  2. While waiting in line, try relaxation exercises. Practice tensing and slowly releasing your muscles as you breathe in for four counts and out for eight.
  3. It is important that you picture yourself enjoying the strange sensations involved in riding roller coasters. Anticipating fear and anxiety will only make it happen faster and stronger.
  4. Outsmart the “scare factor.” Remember that the loops and sudden drops are part of the roller coaster and are perfectly safe.
  5. During the ride, scream. Screaming stops you from holding your breath and helps relieve tension.
  6. Keep your eyes open. Being able to see what is happening actually helps terminate fear and nausea.

Let the fear become part of the fun at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park!

Traveling with Teens: Problems Solved at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Cliff Hanger Roller Coaster at Glenwood Caverns

If you’re looking for a family trip where your teenager won’t get bored, try the thrill rides, cave tours, and technology attractions Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. We’ll provide plenty of adrenaline, interest, and fun for the whole family. 

For the teen who likes living on the edge, nothing surpasses our mountaintop Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, at the highest elevation in North America and 1,450 feet above the Colorado River, or our Giant Canyon Swing that takes you into the void 1,300 feet above the river. If you want to really hang over that empty space, there’s the 625-foot Soaring Eagle Zip Ride. If you’d rather make the dizzying downhill on land, we have America’s first Alpine Coaster that will whip through 3,400 feet, then give you a relaxing ride back up to enjoy the view. You can even go to the heart of the mountain with our 110-foot Haunted Mine Drop, the only underground drop ride in the world.

If your teen is into nature, our mountain also offers three cave tours. You can take a guided quarter-mile stroll through the enchanting Fairy Cave, with beautiful formations, tree roots in the ceiling, and a section with replica century-old lighting to recall that this was one of first electrically-illuminated caves ever. Spacious Kings Row, the most highly-decorated cave room in Colorado, has a light show to highlight its striking formations. We also have a challenging special 2-hour guided Wild Cave tour with tight passageways to sights rarely seen.

If your teen is into technology, they’ll love our 4D Motion Theater, the first in Colorado, a thrill-ride-meets-digital animation with moving seats, surround sound, and special effects that make you feel like you’re inside the movie. You can also join an Old West shootout updated with Laser Tag or see some really old technology at our working Blacksmith Shop.

Along with plenty of attractions, activities, shows, and rides for the parents, the younger children, and the whole family together to enjoy, these thrilling and fascinating activities will ensure that everyone, including the teens, goes home with fun and fond memories of this vacation that will last forever.

For notoriously hard-to-please teenagers, plan a Colorado vacation that will give them something to smile about! Visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Family-owned Theme Parks are a Rarity

Cliffhanger Roller Coaster Glenwood Caverns

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is one of just a few family-held theme parks in the U.S.

Changing tastes in entertainment and strong competition from new diversions mean family-owned theme parks must find innovative ways to attract people to their playgrounds. While mega-parks like Disneyland and Cedar Point cater to corporate investors for more and more roller coasters, smaller parks like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park carve our niche with unique locations – like a the top of a mountain or inside a cave  – responsive service and often a dose of the old days.

Fewer than half of the Top Ten parks recommended by Grandparents.com are corporate-owned. Family-owned playgrounds on the list include Knoebels in Pennsylvania, Holiday World in Indiana (sometimes considered the oldest U.S. theme park), Adventureland in Iowa and Morgan’s Wonderland in Texas.

Our closest cousin in the family of family-owned theme parks is Herschend Family Entertainment that started with Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and now has 23 locations in six states, including Dollywood – known as Silver Dollar City Tennessee until Dolly Parton partnered.

Like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Silver Dollar City in the Ozarks started with a cave originally explored in the 19th century that eventually became a tourist attraction. (It was originally called Marble Cave but changed to Marvel Cave when the smooth rock turned out to be limestone rather than marble.) They still give tours, and they’ve added thrill rides, restaurants and other amusements over the years.

Silver Doller City has a Giant Barn Swing designed, like our Giant Canyon Swing, by S&S Worldwide, which also has installations at Cedar Point and Dollywood as well as in Russia, Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom. Silver Dollar City also has an eight-story drop tower, FireFall. Our Haunted Mine Drop that opened this summer descends more than 11 stories and goes underground.

We’re proud to be among the family-owned theme parks that are there for your family.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park: What Our Visitors Say

Alpine Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Few accolades could mean more than this recent headline by Jamie Swartzendruber on her WineGlasSlipper blog, also published in Denverkids.com: “Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park: It doesn’t get more Colorado than this!”

“Voted one of USA Today’s 10 Best Caves, Glenwood Caverns is a must for your family summer fun list,” Jamie wrote. “Three cave tours offer varying levels of difficulty to suit the whole family! I have a little dare devil, so this year, we opted for the Wild Cave Tour (10-year age requirement AND we finally made the cut). What is it? Only the most extreme caving expedition a kiddo is permitted on, an adventure for the true thrill seeker.”

Our Giant Canyon Swing was more thrill than she bargained for, Jamie said. “With a scratchy voice and trembling hands, I exited the swing of terror, a theme park walk of shame, through the line of sweet little girls waiting to get on,” she wrote.  Wide eyed, they kindly asked if I was going to be alright. I may still have the occasional nightmare, but hey, check that one off my list…. Though I struggled with the Giant Canyon Swing, the kids LOVED it! They rode several times, throwing their hands in the air or striking nonchalant poses. I may have felt theme park envy. The Alpine Coaster was another top-pick. Scary enough to cling to the breaks but enjoyable enough for mom to survive. I’m sure the views are fantastic, but I’ll admit, my eyes were steady on the tracks and my heart was still jumpy.”

Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

We get that a lot. People love the mountaintop experience here – exploring inside the caverns, taking in the view from the summit, screaming over the edge. Here’s a sampling of our online reviews from visitors who have come from across Colorado and the country.

From Iowa, on TripAdvisor, where we have a Certificate of Excellence: “The Alpine Coaster was a lot of fun. It was extremely fast if you want it to be, and you can control (the speed of) the actual sled you are riding on. I had never been on one before and it was my favorite thing to do at the Adventure Park. I rode it numerous times. You don’t have to worry, at the end a lift takes your sled back to the start of the ride and that is cool.”

From Longmont, on TripAdvisor: “By far the easiest way to go caving. Both the original Fairy Caves and King’s Row are easily accessible. The guides are experienced cavers and are a lot of fun. There’s nothing like these caves anywhere else in the US. The tram makes it easy to get to from town.”

From Florida, on TripAdvisor: “This place was fun! We come from the land of Disney and Busch Gardens, but this place dared you! We had a blast riding the Alpine Coaster and the zip line shot! I wish I could say I tried the swing, but I chickened out. I loved the caverns tour and caves. All this was on top of a mountain that you reach by taking a gondola. That was an adventure by itself!”

From Littleton, on Yelp: “A fun day of adventure for the kids and adults alike. We did the combo pass with Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Glad we came here on a sunny day. Tram ride is a great way to go and very scenic. Alpine Coaster was worth going on again and again.”

From our own Facebook page: “We loved everything: the gondola ride up, the incredible views, the rides and cave tours! Everyone was really nice! The Caverns tour guide was SO excited to tell us about the caves! He had lots of fun scientific and historical information! Just a really fun place to spend the day with the family! We also got some amazing pictures.”

Come see for yourself. And thanks, Jamie (We’re proud that it doesn’t get any more Colorado than this.)

August 16th is National Roller Coaster Day!

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 16th and get ready to scream: it’s National Roller Coaster Day! We will  be celebrating at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park by riding the nation’s highest roller coaster, the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster. There will be prize giveaways, including Annual Thrill Passes for the 100th and 300th Cliffhanger riders!

At a whopping 7,100 feet above sea level, the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster overlooks Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Riding the Cliffhanger is a breathtaking experience with unbelievable views, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate roller coasters!

 

The Cliffhanger Roller Coaster offers incredible views and huge thrills!

National Roller Coaster Day 2016 celebrates 138 years of roller coasters, starting in 1878 when a U.S. patent was awarded to Richard Knudsen and J.G. Taylor for a design that would eventually be called a wooden roller coaster. Roller coasters enjoyed a boom in popularity in the late 1910s and early 1920s. The most famous of the roller coasters from that era is the historic Coney Island Cyclone, built in 1927, which is still in operation today.

Today, wood and steel roller coasters are bigger and better than ever. The Kingda Ka Coaster, in the Six Flags Great Adventure Park, is the word’s highest coaster. Kingda Ka is 456 feet off the ground; about 23 giraffes stacked on top of each other! The coaster drops 416 feet from the first hill: not for the faint of heart!

Have the need for speed? The Formula Rossa coaster in Dubai is the world’s fastest roller coaster, with a top speed of 149 miles per hour. Riding the Formula Rossa, you’ll experience the same g-forces as Formula 1 drivers!

Roller coasters provide all different kinds of experiences, but they have one thing in common: they are all a lot of fun! We’re excited to be a part of National Roller Coaster Day, and we hope you’ll join us on August 16th for roller coaster thrills! We will be open from 10am to 6pm. Regular admission applies. For more information, visit our park info page.