It was an uphill climb to get Wildwood city officials to approve the new recreational zip lines for Hidden Valley, but now the $2.5 million ZipTour project is complete. Outdoor adventurers will be riding high this summer at a site best known for winter ski fun.
Tim Boyd, a 1971 graduate of Lindbergh High School, is used to uphill climbs. Boyd came up with the idea for a ski resort at the 250 acres of Hidden Valley back in the early 1980s. All of the business people he approached for financial backing for his plan were skeptics.
A ski resort in Missouri? Really?
Boyd finally got an industrial revenue bond through St. Louis County with the Old Gravois Bank. He said it helped that the banker Dave Stoecker was an avid skier. Not too long after that, Boyd headed to Kansas City with a plan for Snow Creek, a ski resort to be situated near Missouri River bluffs north of Kansas City.
The rest, as they say, is history. Boyd is now CEO of Peak Resorts Inc., which has 17 ski locations and annual revenues of more than $125 million. Zip lines have been installed at a number of these resorts, and based on their success, more could be in the making.
“We have zip lines at other resorts, including Attitash in New Hampshire, Roundtop in Pennsylvania, and Hunter Mountain in New York,” noted Boyd. “I didn’t think getting approval from Wildwood was going to be such a challenge.
“We never ran into that kind of opposition anywhere else, with any of our projects,“ Boyd added. “We were surprised at the opposition that came out of the woodwork for this one. Ultimately though, cooler heads prevailed.”
Cooler heads may have prevailed, but Boyd also was pleased to find plenty of vocal support for the zip line project from veteran ski buffs who have been coming to Hidden Valley for 38 years.
“More than 3 million people have skied at Hidden Valley since its inception, including generations of families who have learned to ski on our slopes,” Boyd said. “So, it really wasn’t difficult to garner support for our zip line project when we needed it.”
“The local community really does love the recreational opportunities that we offer at Hidden Valley,” added Boyd. “To be able to expand those year-round just made sense.”
At a zip line grand opening preview recently, Melissa Nordmann joined a dozen VIP visitors and tour guides for the new “peak experience.” Nordmann, a Eureka native who now lives in O’Fallon, said she liked seeing the safety video before donning the gear.
Zip line gear includes safety helmets, harnesses and large, black backpacks. A 15-pound metal roller called a “trolley” goes into the backpack. The trolley clips onto the steel line cables and to the rider’s harness. There are four zip lines, including a short Greenhorn line where riders learn the basics of speed control and braking.
The other three zip lines are Gloria, Expedition and Skyline. The Gloria line celebrates the recent success of the St. Louis Blues with the team’s Stanley Cup triumph. Zip line riders will feel their own sense of triumph on Expedition, which spans well over 2,800 feet.
Skyline may prove to be the favorite of ski buffs, since it is the steepest of the four lines. The final zip line route, Skyline, delivers riders to a walking trail for a short hike back to Hidden Valley’s ski lodge. A bit of legwork is required on another trail, but a chairlift does the heavy lifting to get riders to the top of the ZipTour.
“It was a great feeling to see the smiles on our first guests’ faces, as they experienced the zip lines for themselves,” said Greg Gavrilets, vice president and general manager of Hidden Valley. “While it wasn’t without its hurdles, I’m incredibly proud of our team here at Hidden Valley and Peak Resorts, who were able to make this vision a reality.”
Of course, Gavrilets also likes to brag on what can be seen from the zip lines, which include views of forests, valley floors, wildlife and the St. Louis Gateway Arch in the distance.
Ski resorts in the Midwest can be “iffy” with warm days and possible climate change ahead. Hidden Valley has learned some “tricks” to keep ski areas running when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Now zip lines add a new dimension to this recreation destination.
“Hidden Valley has survived due to our snow-making expertise,” Boyd explained. “It is a lesson we learned originally here at Hidden Valley and one that we have brought with us to the 16 other resorts that Peak Resorts now owns.
“No matter where you are in the country, snowmaking can help ensure a great season and the great product that our guests have come to expect from us,” Boyd said. “As for the zip line, it is a revenue stream to help even out the weather factor over the course of time. In addition, it allows for year-round operations here at Hidden Valley, which is always a benefit.”
Zip line activity is open to ages 10 and up, and will be offered year-round, with summer operation six days a week, weekend operations in the spring and fall, and weekend operations, weather permitting, in the winter months. Private and group tours will also be offered. ZipTours run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and take about 2.5 hours to complete.
ZipTours cost $79 per person, but group rates are available. For further details, reservations, and pricing, please visit hiddenvalleyski.com.
All times and prices are as of June 2019.