New toy in Duluth an ‘alpine coaster’ not an ‘alpine slide’

When I was a kid, the most awesome place to go downhill skiing was Spirit Mountain in Duluth. My dad would make a point of trying to drive all the way up from the Twin Cities on I-35 without touching the brakes even once.

I still tend to think of Spirit Mountain as a winter place. But Spirit Mountain has branched out quite a bit. The complex includes a campground, bike trails and banquet halls to keep visitors coming during the spring, summer and fall.

And now Spirit Mountain has the new Timber Twister, a year-round “alpine coaster” that opens to the public Thursday. It’s a bit like a roller coaster in the woods, except that riders zoom downhill on individual cars. Riders control their speed, which can reach 26 mph.

A single ride for one person costs $8. Two riders on one car costs $12. You’ve got to be 4-feet tall and at least 8 years old to ride alone. And an advisory to head off tears and temper tantrums: kids under 3 can’t ride at all.

When I mentioned Duluth’s new alpine coaster in the MPR newsroom, touting it as the first of its kind in Minnesota, a fellow editor asked, “What about the one in Lutsen?”

Spirit Mountain emphatically sets us straight. From the Spirit Mountain web site:

Unlike an alpine slide, the alpine coaster makes hairpin turns, is elevated off the ground like a roller coaster, and operates year-round due to its unique track system. …

There are only four alpine coasters operating in the U.S. and this will be the only one in the Midwest. This is truly a unique attraction, and is NOT an alpine slide!!!

Not willing to just take Spirit Mountain’s word for it, I did some extensive research (that is, a YouTube search) into the matter. It appears the Lutsen attraction is shorter and entirely on the ground, as opposed to the longer, raised track at Spirit Mountain.

The evidence …