Adrenaline junkies take heed. If your idea of fun includes zooming through the air with a forest canopy below you and a view of Kootenay Lake in the distance, you’re in luck.
The first commercial zipline in the West Kootenay will begin construction Friday as Kokanee Mountain Zipline breaks ground near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, 20 kilometres north of Nelson. Owners and brothers Jay and Todd Manton are building the tourist attraction on 44 hectares of land located up Kokanee Creek Forest Service Road.
They plan to offer fully guided tours starting July 1 through a series of six zip lines with a mixture of short hikes in between.
The longest zipline is a whopping 609 metres (2300 feet) and its velocity can reach 100 kilometres per hour.
Jay Manton. Photo by Tamara Hynd
Jay is a construction engineer who said his brother “knows ziplining cold”. Todd has extensive experience in the zip line industry, having built ziplines in Penticton and New Zealand. For six years he also provided rope expertise at Easter Seals Camps.
The pair has hired FP Design and Construction of Rossland, whose specialty is building ziplines such as those in Oyama and Revelstoke.
The venture has been in the making since 2013, and Jay said the Nelson Chamber of Commerce has been a “huge help” making connections to source local resources and materials.
Jay said they chose the Nelson area for its “atmosphere of adventure” and the need for more family attractions. And it helps that the closest competitor is a four hour drive away.
He said Kokanee Creek Provincial Park is “a huge draw”, with a large number of people coming through, specifically 38,000 over-night visits and 225,000 day-users annually. Beyond that, he said there are 170 campsites and 700 serviced campsites within a 45 minute drive.
“Most are full and only getting more popular,” he said, adding there is an influx of American tourists due to the US dollar.
A parking area 2.2 kilometres up the forest service road will serve as a place for safety orientation before the 1.5 kilometer shuttle up the road to the first of six ziplines. Each group will have a guide in the lead braking and tying-in guests. A second guide will bring up the tail of the group. Jay described the first two ziplines as short and a good way for people to get comfortable with the feeling and the heights.
After that, the ziplines get more adventurous varying from 200 to 300 feet in the air and above the trees, while crossing Kokanee Creek and its canyons with a view up and down the valley to Kootenay Lake. Some of the zip lines have short hikes between them, the longest being a half kilometre.
For those wondering about safety, people are secured in a body harness. “It’s set up to be “hands free, to do as you please,” said Jay.
There are weight limits even though the harnesses and gear have a 5000 pound rating. The minimum weight limit is 50 pounds and a maximum of 275 pounds.
While it’s fun for all ages of adults, their target audience is eight to 14-year-olds. “They really enjoy the adrenaline,” says Jay.
They plan to open seven days per week until October, with next year being operational beginning in May. The company’s website is at zipkokanee.com.
The tours will explore the West Arm demonstration forest which Jay said has a “ diverse tree ecosystem” and a view of the different forestry practises from back in the day.
“It’s a beautiful forest and peaceful,” said Jay. “There are five giant Ponderosas that are four to five feet in diameter that surround one staging area.”
“Really it’s about being in an eco-friendly sustainable industry,” said Jay.