As part of a fun vacation to Ruidoso, we signed up for a zip line tour at Ski Apache. Just getting to Ski Apache was an interesting adventure of climbing up 7 miles of very steep, twisting and turning, narrow mountain highway with very steep drop offs and loaded with sharp turns and lots of switchbacks. We climbed over 4000 feet in elevation and our little Jeep was huffing and puffing but loved the challenge.The scenery was stunning and awe inspiring so we took our time and enjoyed the drive to Ski Apache for our Apache Wind Rider zip line tour.
Ski Apache is a ski resort about 15 miles from Ruidoso. Its sits on 750 acres on the slope of Sierra Blanca at 11,981 feet above sea level. During the winter one gondola, three quad chairlifts, and four triple chairlifts will whisk you the mountain for a day of skiing or boarding on 55 different ski runs with an average annual snowfall of 15 feet.
In the summer, Ski Apache has a three part zip line tour, gondola rides up the mountain, hiking, a disc golf course, and mountain bikes that you can rent and take on the gondola to the top of the mountain and and zoom down any of the trails. Just riding up the gondola to the top of Sierra Blanca peak and back down is fun and very scenic.
The Apache Wind Rider tour consists of three dual parallel zip lines stretching over 8900 feet straight down the mountain where you can be zipping up to 65 miles an hour - how's that for adrenaline pumping action! And if you open your eyes and look around the views are phenomenal and you can see for hundreds of miles. Apache Wind Rider has minimum and maximum heights (52" to 80") and weights (75 to 275 pounds) to ride zip lines and you need to be at least 10 years old - so check the website before you set out.
The first step on our zip line tour started by watching a short video on how the zip line works, what to expect, how to operate the trolley that takes you down the zip line, how to use the trolley handle to speed up or slow down, and the hand signals that are used to tell you to slow down, speed up, or stop before you ram into one of the operators. Next we got fitted into a harness and helmet and when ask if it felt ok, as it squished my manly parts I lied in a high pitched voice said "yes!"
Then I gingerly walked over to the demo zip line to watch a fellow zipper try it and then I got my quick lesson - which was a test of what we learned in the video and I was afraid I would fail and be sent home. But the instructor kindly reminded me of the hand signals and how to operate the handle to speed up or slow down - seriously, it's very easy!
I passed the test and jumped on the gondola for a very scenic ride up to the top of Sierra Blanca and the first zip line. One of the things I loved about Ski Apache is there is no pain (outside of the tight harness) - the walk to the gondola is easy, an ATV is waiting for you at the top of the gondola lift to take you up a steep hill to the first line, and from there it's all down hill as you zip from one platform to another.
Waiting for us on the first zip line was one of the guides with a great sense of humor, some interesting facts about the mountains and surrounding area, and some words of confidence - did I look scared? Then he hooks your trolley on to the zip line, reminds you of the hand signals, and sends you on your way down a mile long zip line (the longest zip line in the lower 48 states) at around 50 to 60 miles an hour. A 17% grade and 230 feet above ground - fast and thrilling!
I'm now wondering if I'll remember the hand signals and how to slow down. I got a fast start off the platform and I'm finally gaining the courage to look around when the wife goes zooming past yelling "slow poke." Well that made me mad so I pulled down on the handle, picked up some speed (my extra weight helps me go faster), and was about to catch when I saw the operator signaling me to slow down as I approach the landing. I swore I'd beat her on the next one.
As soon as we were both unhooked (I took her ribbing about being slow like a man with his parts squished) we walked a few steps and were hooked into Carrizo Zip Line which is 1700 feet long and steeper (19% grade) and 100 feet above ground and faster at between 55 and 65 miles an hour. II know I can take her on this one. As soon as the guide on this platform had us hooked in I was excited and ready to fly past her. We're off and like a bat out of hell she goes zooming up behind me - as soon as I figured out I wasn't pulling down enough on the handle, my speed picked up and I started to spin sideways (very common when zipping) which slowed me down and I forgot the instructions on how to straighten out. She went sailing past me again and ended up first on the platform. Now it's getting serious - I only have one more chance to get her.
I stepped up to the last zip line (19% grade, 200 feet above ground, and around 60 miles an hour) thinking that I've got to redeem my manly zipping skills! I secretly ask the guide to give me a little push and to wait a second before he released my wife - neither of which he did so it was up to me to take her down! Didn't happen - she flew across the parking lot and up to the final landing platform as the guide at the bottom frantically gave me the slow down signal - I was sure I was going to slam into him. I gave her a high five and promised to buy her a margarita. How can such a tiny sweet little thing be so fast!
Although she won't let me forget that she beat me on all three zip lines, I still had a blast. That was clearly the fastest and longest zip line I've ridden and scenery was beautiful. From almost 12,000 ft you feel like you're on the top of the world and you can see for hundreds of miles - tall mountain peaks, the valley and desert, lush green meadows, towering trees, and that twisting turning road I had to drive back down. We had a blast.