By Sheila D’Amico EBS Contributor
“If you could be any animal, what would you be?” asked the zipline guide Ana Dostert to our crew of eight.
“Spider monkey!” I replied. This icebreaker was meant to acquaint our group with our guide, as we embarked on Big Sky Resort’s chairlift-accessed Adventure Zipline Tour.
We met outside the Basecamp Activity headquarters in the Mountain Village plaza where the guides discussed the importance of harnesses, used to secure participants while flying across the four lines spanning a total of 5,000 feet.
After the last participant said, “Dolphin,” our group walked to the Explorer chairlift located behind the Huntley Lodge. We paired up on the chairlift before unloading and walking to the first zipline tower, “Swifty 3.0,” which is 80 feet off the ground. Our chatter and laughter subsided when we saw the distance – 1,200 feet – to the next tower.
One of our two zipline guides clipped his pulley system onto the cable, explaining the steps as he went. With a grin on his face, he ran off the platform and sailed to the other tower to set up as “catcher” on the other side.
Each of us adventure zippers were different sizes and the guide explained to a 5-foot-2-inch young girl that she needs to hold her legs to her chest – making herself into ball – to go faster. Then he turned to a 6-foot-tall father explaining that he might need to spread out all his limbs like a starfish to help him slow down as he approaches the landing.
After a couple of brave volunteers zip to the far tower, it’s the spider monkey’s turn. The guide performs a quick safety check of my equipment, hooks my pulley system to the cable, radios the catcher, and tells me to go.I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and jump, and I’m speeding through the air. I open my eyes to see the tops of trees flashing by and hear the cheers of my “animal friends.” I truly feel like a spider monkey flying to my next tree. I’m grinning from ear to ear, high-fiving my new friends on the other side as we celebrate crossing the span.
From the second platform, “Jerry’s Terror,” with a line spanning 800 feet, we zip to the next tower. This time, those who were a bit timid on the first tower are stepping up to go first. As we each make it across, a new challenge awaits us – we have to get belayed off the tower.
My comfort zones are pushed, but the encouragement from my new best friends gets me to solid ground. We then have a short hike down to the third tower, “Kessel Run,” with a 1,000-foot line, which became my favorite of the tour.
Within seconds of stepping off the platform, I’m so close to the treetops I no longer feel my inner spider monkey. Instead I feel like I’m on a speeder bike from “Return of the Jedi,” traveling as fast as they did in the opening scene.
The tower I’ve landed on has our last line back to the base area. It’s the “Twin Zip,” spanning 1,400 feet, where two of us will launch simultaneously in a race to the finish. A competition? I’m in!
I’ve tossed aside my metaphorical speeder bike for the spider monkey skills. I’m paired with the dolphin, who is my size. We both wait for the “3, 2, 1” countdown from the guide, and then jump. Immediately we’re both in a tight ball formation, spinning slightly to try to see each other. We’re both laughing as we whiz to the finish.
Sheila D’Amico is the Public Relations Manager at Big Sky Resort. She has been on the Adventure Zipline three times and each time her heart races, she gets a bit nervous, and screams with joy. If you hear a long drawn out ‘yahoo’ or ‘yeehaw’, chances are D’Amico is zipping again.