Stand at the bottom of the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead and gaze upwards. You can’t see it, but perched at the top of the mountain is a world of adventure, just waiting to be explored. Known as Epic Discovery, the mountain coaster, rope courses, climbing wall, bungee trampoline and other activities give guests an opportunity to climb, bounce and race around at 10,000-feet above sea level.
Epic Discovery debuted at Vail in 2016 with the idea of creating a cohesive experience for thrill seekers and knowledge seekers alike, all on top of the mountain, which appeals to vista seekers, too. The idea of educating while entertaining seems to be one of the main focuses, with interpretive guides and informative signage incorporated in the experience.
“Visiting Epic Discovery at the top of Vail Mountain has become a must-do when in Vail,” says Maggie Meisinger, senior specialist of communications for Vail Mountain. “It is no longer a scenic ride for our guests and a chance to take in the views, but rather a planned full day of activities and learning.” Several new elements were introduced last summer. However, the element that gives the most expansive — and exciting — perspective are the ziplines. The highlight is the Game Creek Zipline Tour, a system of ziplines and aerial bridges that elevates guests 300 feet in the air. Hold on to your socks: It doesn’t stop there.
The Game Creek Zipline is one of the most scenic zipline experiences in Colorado, says Meisinger. The tour lasts between three and four hours, during which participants navigate their way through seven ziplines and aerial bridges that create almost two miles of ziplining fun.
“It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in the summer,” said Atlanta resident Rachel Travis. “What makes it unique is that ziplines are typically a ‘one-and-done’ type of thing… but this one has seven different lines around Game Creek Bowl.” The third zip made an impression on Travis. She said being suspended 300 feet above Game Creek Bowl was truly special: “It’s a perspective you’d never get, even if you were skiing.” But the experience is not limited to just ziplines. The course also includes aerial bridges and several towers that require rappelling to reach the next ledge or line.
Leading you through this airborne adventure are experienced guides. Travis said that her guides had led tours around the world and she was able to put her trust in them, which is important. But along with the safety factor is the available local knowledge. “The neatest aspect of the zipline tour is the fact that you will always have a guide with you to assist with your equipment, teach you about local history, ecology, geology and even a dinner recommendation,” adds Meisinger.
For those not quite tall enough to enjoy the Game Creek tour, the Little Eagle zipline provides a just-the-right-size thrill, with a 200-foot zip. Vail Valley resident Meggen Kirkham took her 10-year-old daughter up to Epic Discovery last summer with a cousin to enjoy the offerings.
“She was just tall enough to do the one zipline that’s over by the tubing, so we did do that one,” Kirkham says. “She’d never been on a zipline bigger than the one during the Kids Adventure Games over the river, so that was thrilling for sure.” There are few things that 3-year-olds and 73-year-olds can all enjoy, but the sensation of flight is sure to be one of them.
The Ultimate Adventure Pass provides unlimited all-day access to the activities that are part of Epic Discovery, including the Game Creek Zipline tour. Cost is $94 per person. To ride the Game Creek Zipline, participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 75 and 250 pounds. Participants under 14 years old must be accompanied by a paying adult.
For small adventurers, the Little Explorer Pass includes access to the age-appropriate activities like the climbing tower, Little Eagle zipline and Pine Cone adventure course. It also includes the scenic gondola ticket. Cost is $54 per person. Children who want to ride the Little Eagle zipline must be at least 3 years old and weigh between 30 and 100 pounds.
In order to fully enjoy the activities, make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. The rides and attractions at Epic Discovery require enclosed footwear (no heel straps) so don comfortable, sturdy shoes like hiking boots or tennis shoes. The summit can be as much as 10-degrees cooler than the base, so layer clothing and be sure to bring a raincoat for potential afternoon showers. At that altitude, the sun is fierce, so slather on the sunscreen and don’t forget your sunglasses.
Whether you stick to the smaller zipline or spend several hours flying around the top of Vail Mountain, there is no experience quite like the ziplines of Epic Discovery. Visit in the early summer and enjoy the shades of vibrant green that paint the mountain, or return in the fall to see the slopes gilded in gold. No matter the day, you’re sure to see something spectacular as you soar through the sky.
While Epic Discovery is open daily in the summer, there are some Vail adventures that take a bit more planning. The eighth annual Vail Kids Adventure Games (KAG) returns Aug. 9 through13 for two days of skills clinics, three days of racing, two days of free family adventure zone and one crazy mud run. Designed for participants ages 6 to 14, the games are one of the most anticipated events of the year, providing kids with an opportunity to gain an understanding of the outdoors while becoming environmental stewards, learning teamwork and building confidence, all while having fun. Teams of two navigate an adventure course that includes biking, trekking, rope swinging, mud pit crossing, cargo net climbing, zipline crossing, zipline sliding and other challenging obstacles. For those who decide to forego the full race but still want to get down and dirty, the KEEN Family Mud Run returns Saturday, August 12 at 4:30 p.m. at Mountain Plaza in Vail Village.
The Mud Run features more-than-a-mile course with mud pits and is open to all ages. Costumes are encouraged. Costs to preregister are $10 for kids, $20 for adults or $50 for a family of four (two kids, two adults). Register at www.vailrec.com. “The mud run is an epic battle to see who can be the muddiest, dirtiest and coolest dressed among runners,” said Jamie Gunion, spokeswoman for the Kids Adventure Games. “Sometimes all you see are eyeballs coming through the finish line but the big goal is to not lose your shoes—those mud pits are notorious shoe-eaters. And, of course, it’s totally okay to hug a race volunteer or worker along the way. Just don’t tell any one I said that.”
To find more information or to sign up for the Kids Adventure Race, visit www.kidsadventuregames.com.