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The park's Superman: Escape from Krypton roller coaster features two twin 415-foot tall towers. Roller coaster cars are launched from zero to 100 mph down the twin tracks and then up these two spires. Those two skyscraping towers are going to be used as the structure for the LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom where riders will drop 400 feet at an unreal 85 mph. After falling for five seconds, which will probably feel like an eterntity, the riders will come to a halt just a few feet from the ground.
To put this insane drop in context, the tallest drop rides in the United States are around 300 feet tall. The view from 400-feet up should be beyond breath-taking. I have to imagine that the wait will be ridiculously long with only two eight-person wide gondolas, but I'm betting that many will gladly wait hours for such an experience. Read more about this new ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain's LEX LUTHOR: Drop of Doom page and watch the preview video below.
Last weekend, Busch Gardens Williamsburg confirmed their new 2012 roller coaster Verbolten. The multi-launch steel roller coaster will be built on the former site of the Big Bad Wolf. And, like that classic coaster, Verbolten will use the park's beautiful and hilly terrain. During its 2,835-foot course, the ride will dive to the Rhine River. The Zierer-designed roller coaster will include two launches, lap bars instead of over-the-shoulder restraints, and a top speed of 53 mph.
In a departure from fabled creatures from European folklore like the Loch Ness Monster and Griffon, Verbolten's theme will be more modern. The ride will feature what look to be trains themed as sports cars. Based on what little is known about the ride, we do know that it will include an exciting car ride through Germany's Black Forest that goes wrong. It's an appropriate theme considering it'll be in the park's recently revitalized Oktoberfest area in the Germany section. The most intriguing part of Verbolten may occur inside a building during the indoor portion of its layout. This indoor section is said to hold some surprises as it will incorporate darkness and changes in weather. Aside from these details, not much else is known as the park did not release a full animated POV or off-ride videos like parks do with most new ride announcements.
Last week, Six Flags Great America unveiled details for X-Flight. The 3,000 foot long steel roller coaster will boast a new seating configuration where guests will be seated completely outside of the track rather than above or below it. If riding completely exposed wasn't enough, riders will face five loops that mimic fighter plane maneuvers including a barrel roll, zero-g roll, and an Immelmann loop. X-Flight's most thrilling element will likely be when the roller coaster threads the needle as it narrowly passes through a themed air traffic control tower. The ride will begin with a 12-story drop generating a top speed of 55 mph. X-Flight is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2012.
After months of releasing coded clues and hints via a fictitious engineering website reminiscent of the Dharma Initiative from ABC's Lost, Hersheypark unveiled its highly anticipated 2012 roller coaster. Dubbed Skyrush, the steel roller coaster will dominate the park's skyline with a 200-foot tall peak. The ride will begin with an unusually speedy ascent to the top of the lift hill. Then, riders will be treated to a layout indicative of hyper coasters: high speeds, banked turns, and airtime hills. Loved by coaster fans, the airtime hills are designed to provide a weightless sensation at the crests.
Skyrush's most intriguing feature may be its floorless seats. Each wing-shaped row of four seats will have two floored seats in the middle and two floorless seats on the edges. I'd imagine thrill junkies like myself will be scrambling for those outer seats. Roller coasters with this kind of layout and these stats aren't rare, but the swift climb up the lift hill and the ride's first-of-its-kind trains do make Skyrush look interesting.
Here's an animated video that gives us a preview of what Hersheypark's Skyrush will look like.
For weeks now Fuji Q Highlands' new roller coaster, Takabisha, has made international headlines. The steel Gerstlauer roller coaster has pushed the steepness envelope by setting a World record setting 121-degree drop. As I documented in my article, Five ways roller coasters have changed since you were a kid, roller coasters with beyond 90-degree drops are nothing new. Hersheypark's Fahrenheit boasts a 97-degree drop and Steel Hawg at Indiana Beach made history when it opened in 2008 with an 111-degree drop. Steel Hawg was dethroned by the UK's Mumbo Jumbo at Flamingoland which edged it out with a 112-degree drop.
There have also been a number of other roller coasters with these super steep drops, but the trend had seemed to go pretty much unnoticed to the media. Roller coaster fans like myself find them interesting, but the steepness record holder never got the kind of attention that the World's fastest roller coaster (Formula Rossa) or the World's tallest roller coaster (Kingda Ka) has received.
This is why I am so surprised by the enormous media attention that Takabisha, a roller coaster in Japan, has received here in the U.S. Many of my non-roller coaster loving friends and family have mentioned the ride to me, I've been contacted by the media to speak about it, it's been featured on morning radio shows, on a late night talk show, and it's been covered by national and international media outlets.
Buffalo-area theme park Darien Lake was the site of a tragedy on Friday when a man, former Iraq war vet Sgt. James Hackemer, died after falling from a roller coaster. Hackemer was a double leg amputee after losing his legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq three years ago.
The accident happened on the twenty story tall roller coaster called Ride of Steel. It has large hills, banked curves, and speeds in excess of 70 mph. The roller coaster's trains use a lap bar restraints (pictured here).
Hackemer's nephew Ashton Luffred, who rode with him, shared his account of the horrible accident in a New York Post article. According to Luffred, Hackemer asked guest services which rides were safe for him to ride and he was told that he could ride all of them. Hackemer was ejected on one of the smaller camel back-shaped hills on the trip back to the station.
In statements to the press and on Darien Lake's home page, the park says that they are investigating the accident with the local authorities and safety experts. The Ride of Steel roller coaster will remained closed until the investigation is complete while the rest of the park will be open.
[Photo Credit - Flickr User OliverN5]
Based on my experiences and the general opinions and buzz from other roller coaster enthusiasts, here's a list of what I consider to be America's most intense roller coasters.
The Voyage at Holiday World
Holiday World's The Voyage is one of the largest and fastest wooden roller coasters in the World. The out and back terrain coaster provides an intense 2 minute and 45 second marathon of thrills. After leaving the station, The Voyage delivers an onslaught of large hills, five underground tunnels, three ridiculously banked 90-degree turns, and a record-setting 24 seconds of air time as riders are lifted out of their seats throughout the adventure. Each time I got off of The Voyage I was physically exhausted, but also excited to get back in line and take the trip again. The Voyage is a rare wooden roller coaster in that it's intense and a tad rough, but still fun and completely re-rideable.
X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2 has an insane riding position. It places riders on either side of the track instead of on top or below it. In turn, exposing riders and giving them virtually no place to hide. Not only is the seating position off-putting and intimidating, but the seats rotate riders 360-degrees forward and backward. If that wasn't enough, the ride's opening dive sends you plummeting head first towards the ground. X2 was so intense that it made the middle-aged mom that I rode with see her life pass before her eyes.
Here's a video covering the Cedar Point's WindSeeker as it opens. At about 4 minutes into the video you can see the ride operate with its impressive lighting system. It looks pretty incredible at night.
Like Hollywood's summer of sequels a number of theme parks are all inexplicably opening tower rides this year. There are WindSeeker clones that will be popping up at sister Cedar Fair parks Kings Island (near Cincinatti), Knotts Berry Farm (near Los Angeles), and Canada's Wonderland (near Toronto). Add to that Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Mach Tower and Six Flags' SkyScreamers at Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (near San Francisco) and you've got quite an unusual trend.
To give the unique ride a proper send off, Six Flags America is having a two-day pirate festival on July 9th and 10th. Also, starting next week, one of Skull Mountain's boats will be placed in the midway allowing guests the ability to take photos. The park is also holding a last rider auction and a boat from Skull Mountain will be donated to the National Roller Coaster Museum. Make sure you get another ride in before July 10th. Hopefully, the park has a new attraction in the works to take the place of this fun ride. Read the full press release here. [Photo Credit - Flickr user Milst1]