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