Ziplines offer a flight through the treetops

Map a trip to Scream Time ZipLine

BOONE -- Slicing through trees and across a mountain valley hanging from a steel cable, it's hard not to feel like a 21st century Tarzan, with more clothes and less arm strength.

Ziplining offers all the perks of being a tree-swinging jungle man, and one of the longest and most unusual ziplines in the country is in the Appalachian Mountains, three hours from the Triangle.

Scream Time Zipline, 10 minutes from downtown Boone, claims to have one of the country's longest ziplines - three of them actually, side by side.

They're 2,000 feet of half-inch aviation steel cable, suspended from the top of a mountain peak. Clip a harnessed human to one, and descent is quick at 40 mph.

Zippers fly over a mountain valley, above a lone house and grazing cattle, and on to a small wooden landing pad. A guide at the bottom throws a rubber block on the line to slow your descent just before you land.

"It's awesome, pretty darn awesome. You've got time to look around and enjoy it, and you're still screaming," said Robert Foster of Piney Flats, Tenn., about an hour from Boone. "Flying over those houses is pretty cool. The thrill outweighs the fear."

There are at least 15 zipline attractions throughout the state, mostly in the Piedmont and the mountains. They fall into two categories: standard zip line tours, where participants fly on cable connected to poles on the ground, and canopy tours, where the wire is suspended from aerial platforms in trees.

Canopy tours have become more popular in recent years, accounting for about 70 percent of ziplines, said Steve Gustafson, who owns Experience Based Learning, azipline company that built the Scream Time Zipline.

'Higher, longer, faster'

Recreational ziplining became popular in summer camps during the 1960s as a part of ropes courses, but can be traced to the military, who used ziplines during World War II, Gustafson said. In 2005, there were only four recreational courses in the United States, he said; now there are about 130.

Ziplining has become so popular, Gustafson's company can't keep up with demand; since 2009 it has done 29 zipline projects in the United States, South Korea and Canada, and is opening two new tours in Sonoma, Calif., and near Yosemite National Park later this year.

"The evolution of zipline is everybody keeps going for higher, longer, faster," Gustafson said.

The mountain views and the side-by-side triple-wide ziplines are Scream Time's draw.

Tim Holody came up from Boca Raton, Fla., to check out the triple-wide. Holody is a dedicated zipliner; a few years back he jumped out on the zipline two weeks after having surgery on his neck, against his doctor's orders.

"It's a pretty good line," said Holody, who has toured more than 10 zipline courses all over the world including ones in Alaska, Costa Rica and Colorado. "It's a rush. It's like floating out there. It's almost like flying ... It's a great thing out in the open."

That's racing

The triple-wide is ideal for racing. And the takeoff, a down-slope run to fling oneself across a mountain chasm, is a highlight.

"The adrenaline rush is crazy with those fast speeds," said John Wagoner, 14, from Greensboro, whoziplined with his sister and grandmother as a birthday gift. "It was fun because we got to race each other."

The regular zipline tour is a six-line zigzag stretching from the top of one peak to lower ones, on down the mountain. The whole excursion, from the drive to the top of the peak to zipping down the last line, takes about two hours and costs $89. The triple-wide costs extra.

Open to all

Scream Time opened in January 2008 and zips about 75 people across its lines each day, said guide Zachary Shytle.

The tour is open year-round; zipliners can fly down lines in all weather conditions except lightning, Shytle said. Guides like Shytle help zippers on each leg of the tour, slowing them down at the end of the line.

There's no strict age or weight restrictions for line flying at Scream Time; it's open to all. When your weight is on the line, literally, it's supported by harnesses and cables built to hold more than 13 tons.

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