Ziplining is undoubtedly one of the world’s most exciting sports. Used for centuries as a means of transportation in China, the zipline allowed local residents to cross rivers. Mentioned as an "an inclined strong" in The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, published in 1897, it became popular in the Australian outback to deliver food and supplies to those laboring on the other side of a gully or river. It was also employed by Australian troops to transport food, mail and ammunition into conflict areas.
The world's longest zipline is the 2.8 kilometer Jebel Jais Flight at Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. As of September 2015, the steepest zipline in the world with a maximum 58.6% incline debuted at Letalnica bratov Gorišek in Planica, Slovenia.
PREVIOUSLY: The World's Fastest Zipline Just Got Even Faster
Since ziplining requires no experience, it is suitable for both children and adults. Before embarking on your first ziplining adventure, however, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to ensure your safety and enjoyment.
Fitted workout clothes are best for ziplining since they are more aerodynamic, however, participants should consider the temperature, wearing lighter clothing in summer and warmer weather in winter. Closed-toe running or athletic shoes are also highly recommended. Skirts and dresses as usually prohibited and jewelry should be avoided.
Rely On Your Guide
Most adventure parks provide trained and experienced guides who will lead you through the ziplining experience. After arriving at the park, a zipline guide will explain all the safety and ziplining instructions. When in doubt, ask. There are usually guides stationed throughout the park to answer your questions or offer help.
Safety Is The Priority
After fitting you into a full-body harness, the staff will lock your harness locks into a safety line connected to an on belay system. Two carabineers, which are connected, impede participants from fully disconnecting from the safety line, meaning they won’t be able to come off belay until they have returned to the ground. The building and maintenance standards for zip line courses are established by the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), which requires courses to be reviewed every year by a certified third party. Zipliners should always choose a park with ACCT approval.
Not all courses are the same, however, so it’s a good idea to use your best judgement when signing up for a ziplining experience. According to Corey Andres, a sports and recreation expert, "If safety equipment looks tattered and worn, you may want to opt-out of the experience. One hard and fast rule that I recommend is that if the only braking mechanism provided is a heavy glove used to squeeze the cable, don’t do it without proper training and practice."
Also, though participants will be anxious to record their adventure for posterity, taking selfies while zipline is not a good idea since zipliners will need both hands. If you want a picture to remember your ziplining experience, ask a friend or family member to photograph you from the ground. Most courses also offer tree platforms for spectators to take pictures.
Enjoy The Experience
Zipliners shouldn’t let their nerves get the best of them. A little fear is certainly normal, but trust that you have been secured safely into your harness and you’re simply gliding through the air with no possibility of falling. Ziplining is certainly an adrenaline rush, but it’s not a reason to panic. Simply enjoy the rush of wind and the chance to soar through the air safely.
Nothing is fool-proof though. Researchers at Ohio State University found that nearly 12 percent of zipline injuries resulted in fractures or other injuries that required hospitalization, meaning ziplining can be ranked as dangerous as rock climbing.
Ziplining, though, can help people overcome their fear of heights. According to Jon Johnson, the founder of Zipline Utah, “It really comes down to the little kids or adults that are like ‘I’m afraid of heights. I’m terrified. This really scares me.’ And by the time they are done the smile on their face saying, ? ‘I’m not afraid of heights anymore. This was a blast and I want to do it again.’”
Best Zipline Tours
According to Greg Melville, who writes Outside Online's Adventure Adviser column, the following are the best zipline tours in the United States:
Navitat Canopy Adventures
A three-and-a-half-hour tour of the Blue Ridge in Barnardsville, North Carolina, features 10 lines, two bridges, and two rappels. Guides are on hand to ensure participants safety and to offer information about local history and habitat.
Captain Zipline in Salida, Colorado, features seven lines, which extend from 200 to 700 feet and hang above a canyon carved by the Arkansas River. Zipliners will reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, while catching glimpses of the mining claim ruins and the 14,000-foot peaks.
Redwood Canopy Tours
This three hour tour through the misty Arcata Community Forest in California allows participants to reach heights of up to ten stories above the ground. Operated by North Coast Adventure Centers, this tour is more arduous than most since it requires a 25-foot tree climb up the branches of a redwood.
The premier zipline tour in the Northeast, Arbortrek, located near Vermont’s tallest peak, features eight lines that range in length from 150 to 1,000 feet. Participants will be able to glide through the forests around the Smuggler's Notch Ski resort.
This zipline tour over the Alkali Creek Canyon in Wolcott, Colorado, consists of six lines, which range in length from 200 to 1,000 feet, hanging deep within the 4 Eagle Ranch.
In the end, ziplining should be a fun adventure not an obstacle to overcome. Trust your instincts. If you want to face your fears, more power to you, but follow your gut in terms of safety. You should feel comfortable with the aerial park you visit, the guides, the equipment, and then you can take the plunge.