Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 7, 2011

Treetop attraction coming to W.Va.’s Gorge

Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — An aerial adventure park is expected to open next April on the Gorge in Fayette County, offering treetop tours of the resort.

While the sport is only emerging in the U.S., scores of aerial parks can be found in France and Switzerland.

Some contain up to 250 bridges extending between treetop platforms. Each offers a unique challenge, including tightrope walks and barrel crawls.

The bridges are constructed of various combinations of cable, wood, rope or ziplines. They are linked together to form courses of varying skill levels.

The West Virginia attraction is a joint venture of Class VI Runners, Mountain River Tours, the Rivermen and Songer Whitewater, the Charleston Gazette Mail reports.

Outdoor Ventures of Southport, Conn., is designing and building the park at Adventures on the Gorge.

Bahman Azarm, president of Outdoor Adventures, said the outdoor adventure sport began when young people at a ski area in France used lift cables to create bridges linking trees.

The course at Adventures on the Gorge will follow a model in which a variety of courses with differing skill levels are accessed from a central platform.

Users will be equipped with climbing harnesses and clips attached to overhead cables, ensuring safety as they travel between treetop platforms. They also carry zipline trolleys to traverse the zipline components found on each course.

Once they’ve received an orientation session on the safety gear and instruction on how to traverse the park, visitors are free to self-guide themselves along its courses.

“In a way it will operate like a ski area, where people can follow the routes they choose, and have access to the whole park for a certain number of hours,” said Dave Arnold, director of public relations for Adventures on the Gorge and managing partner of Class VI.

The park will have color-coded degree of difficulty ratings for the courses, such as black diamond for expert. The black diamond will be 35 to 50 feet high, with more difficult challenges.

The Fayette County park will have 61 bridges. The course will include such challenges as a snowboard ridden from platform to platform via cable and a “Tarzan swing,” where a trapeze bar is used to swing to a net which must be climbed to reach the next platform.

The park will be available to people 7 and older.

Adventures on the Gorge already offers tree-based activities at TreeTops Canopy Tours and Gravity zipline.