Since July 13, more than 2,500 people have swung through Loon Mountain’s new Aerial Forest Adventure Park. Located in a glade between the Little Sister and Brookway trails, the park allows participants to challenge themselves by moving from platform to platform above the forest floor via a network of ziplines, bridges and cables.
Overseeing most of the day-to-day operations of the park is Gaylen Kelley, Manager of the Aerial Forest Adventure Center. Gaylen, who coaches Loon’s X-Team during the winter, has been busy this summer helping get the AFAP (Aerial Forest Adventure Park) off the ground. We sat down with Gaylen this week to ask how things have gone so far.
LOON MOUNTAIN: People move through the AFAP on their own, using a system of locking clips and carabiners. How has that worked out?
GAYLEN KELLEY: It’s very independent, and people like it because of that. Families I feel get a little closer or do things that they normally wouldn’t do together because maybe there’s that one family member that really doesn’t like the outdoors, or really doesn’t like being all that active, or doesn’t think they have all that much upper-body strength that it takes to get through there. But when they do it with their family, it makes them feel like they can do anything.
LOON MOUNTAIN: What do you do if someone is on the course, 15 feet in the air, and needs help?
GAYLEN KELLEY: It goes in different stages. We’ll have our employee walk over and they’ll ask what’s going on, what they need help with. If they can talk them through it, then that’s what they do. They’ll say ‘You can do it. You’re going to be fine!’ A lot of people have a problem with heights, so they say ‘You’re safe. You have an extra lanyard, you have an extra clip.’ Sometimes they’ll ask if there’s any kind of a hint to get through an obstacle and we give them some hints. But we try to keep it very independent so we don’t give it away all the time.
Sometimes they won’t move unless you go up with them, so we’ll have an employee go up into the course with them – that seems to help. Sometimes they trust the employee more than their parents, and that’s the part that’s always hilarious. If all else fails, we oftentimes lower them down and they make it to the ground safely. They’re free to try it again.
LOON MOUNTAIN: How do people react once they’ve finished the course?
GAYLEN KELLEY: They usually say that they love it, and that it’s great and that they want to come back. We’ve had people come back three days in a row, or people who come back with their family and friends week after week. They say that even their grandmothers do it. They love it.
LOON MOUNTAIN: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about doing the AFAP, but might be a bit wary of heights?
GAYLEN KELLEY: I think it’s important that people come and try it even if they don’t think they can do it, because there’s plenty of other things that you can do. If you don’t want to do the aerial course, you can come down and we’ll switch it for the zipline. Or if they don’t think they can do it and they go up there and end up doing a great job, they feel so much better about themselves. That’s what I really like about it.
The Aerial Forest Adventure Park is open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (weather permitting), through September 3. From September 8 to October 8, the park will be open weekends only from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.