Think summer in the mountains can't be a rush? Think again. Shortly after its opening this June, I visited Catamount Adventure Park, approximately 50 miles south east of Albany, on a great morning to see what all the excitement is about.
The Park is located off Route 23 in Hillsdale NY, on the grounds of one of the oldest ski areas in America: Catamount Ski Area. This aerial forest adventure park, designed by Swiss engineers, claims to be the largest of its kind in North America. It will be open spring thru the fall.
Located a short hike up the mountain amidst a canopy of tall hardwood and conifer trees, it is a challenge for the entire family. Dappled by muted sunlight, the forest environment here offers great protection from the summer sun. The Park consists of a series of eight courses, all off the ground at varying heights. The courses are graded in 5 levels of difficulty much like ski trails, i.e. starting at the easiest Yellow, and moving up in difficulty through Green, Blue, Black and Double Black. There are 2 yellows, 2 greens, 2 blues, 1 black and 1 double black.
The Park is very friendly to the environment with no hard surfaces. Soft bark covered paths connect the courses. Benches of native lumber provide a good viewing location and short rests between courses. Ingeniously, a hollow large tree stump serves as a trash container.
Upon arrival participants are given a safety course in the base lodge that includes how to use carabiners, (metal couplings with safety closures used mostly by rock climbers). A harness is fitted snugly to your waist and thighs. The harness has a heavy-duty loop for connecting your pulley to one of the several the cable (zip) lines that connect stations. Two carabiners on your harness are always connected to a safety cable, except when changing connections between stations of the course. Leather palmed gloves are also used to safely handle the cables and assist in controlling zip line speed. Athletic shoes or hiking boots are recommended. Heels can provide a good secure feeling when climbing on cables.
All staff is highly trained in park safety.
Users must be 8 years of age or older and not weigh more than 275 pounds. For those with rather large waists there are even special harnesses. Wear appropriate clothing for the day's weather. Pursuing the courses can be real a workout.
Plan on spending at least two to three hours to fully appreciate the park and start with the easiest courses and work your way up in difficulty.
This place is a great test of balance and coordination. The truth about being in the trees is that once you are there, you are so focused on the cables and the tasks at hand, you don't notice that you are up in the air.
Each course has zip lines but primarily they [the zips] are "bridges" between sturdy tree platforms. The real test of your strength and agility comes from traversing a variety of rope, cable and wood configurations creating unique challenges strung between the towering oaks and maples. You will develop skills, endurance and confidence as you progress up through the levels of difficulty during your time in the Park.
The "Black Storm" course is the highest at approximately 60 feet above grade. On the easiest yellow courses the minimum height is about 8 feet.
Call ahead (518 325 3200) if the weather looks uncertain. The park will close during periods of thunderstorms and heavy rain.
For a preview of the action at the Park, check out http://www.catamounttrees.com
For a three hour pass adults pay $43 and Juniors (8-13) pay $29.