BARTLETT — It already has a baker's dozen worth of attractions and — just in time for summer — Attitash Mountain Resort is building a 14th: ZipTour, featuring the Flying Bear, which, at slightly less than 5,000 feet, is being billed as the "longest single-span zip line in the contiguous United States."
According to Attitash officials, the new ZipTour will carry riders from the summit of Bear Peak to the base of Attitash Mountain. Along with the Preflight training span, two major zip line spans are being installed: Flying Bear, which will be nearly a mile long and carry riders as high as 400 feet off the ground, and the Attitash Aerial Zip, which will be just less than 3,000 feet long and return the riders to the base of Attitash Mountain.
The new Attitash zip lines will be significantly longer than the 2,100-foot ZipRider at Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch, which, along with Crotched Mountain and Attitash, is a subsidiary of Peak Resorts of Wildwood, Mo.Flying Bear also will be longer than the 3,981-foot Recoil Zip, the longest line at Gilford's Gunstock Mountain Resort Adventure Park, which bills itself as having the "longest zip line spans in the Continental United States."
"We are thrilled to once again be adding another major new attraction to the Attitash experience this summer," said John Lowell, president of Attitash Mountain Resort and Wildcat Mountain said in a company release. "The installation project has already begun, and we project to open the ZipTour, including the Preflight, Flying Bear and Attitash Aerial Zip lines, by mid-summer."
According to the release, Attitash pioneered the seasonal conversion of ski areas to summer fun parks when it opened its Alpine Slide in 1976. The resort now also boasts the Mount Washington Valley's longest mountain coaster and New Hampshire's first free-fall Airbag Jump.
Additionally, Attitash offers water slides, horseback riding, mountain biking, Buddy Bear's Playpool, scenic chair rides, a climbing wall, the EuroBungy trampoline, "slacklines" and a railroad dining car. Most of the attractions will begin operating during Memorial Day weekend or shortly after.
Karl Stone, marketing director of Ski NH, which represents more than 30 alpine and Nordic resorts in the Granite State, said that what Attitash is doing reflects statewide and national trends. The summer months, Stone noted, account for 40 percent of annual tourism dollars, with fall and winter each generating 20 percent.
"Summer is when people are able to take their vacations," Stone said, adding that many summer visitors go to the mountains where ski resorts have facilities to accommodate them and can readily add new attractions.
The ski industry for years has been looking to expand non-winter offerings, Stone said. Most of the new attractions, he said, share two common traits: They require limited instruction and no specialized equipment.
"Somebody can be driving by an attraction and participate, and within 20 minutes they can have a big smile on their face," Stone said.
Among the variety of attractions at New Hampshire ski resorts are canopy tours at Bretton Woods, which also offers zip lines; a mountain coaster at Cranmore Mountain Resort, which also has a giant swing and the Soaring Eagle zip line; the Zipline Canopy Tour and Thrillsville Aerial Park at Alpine Adventures near Loon Mountain in Lincoln; the Canopy Zip-Line Tour at Mount Sunapee in Newbury; Gunstock's zip lines, Aerial Tree Top Adventures and off-road Segway tours.
"Right now, zip lines are very popular, and the aerial adventure courses are great," said Stone. "They take several hours to complete, so there's a real sense of accomplishment."
In addition to zip lines, he said, resorts also are enticing summer visitors with disc golf and downhill-mountain biking.
Introducing new activities attracts attention from prospective visitors, Stone said, while enabling resorts to maximize their resources.
"You have the infrastructure in place in some of the most scenic places in New England," he said.