Saturday, August 21, 2010

Flying Through the Tree Tops! - Bretton Woods Canopy Tour

Jill and I took this past Friday off from work and I surprised her with something that she had been wanting to do for quite a while. I booked us reservations on the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour for 9:30am. Now, I know this blog is where I write about my hiking adventures, but I figured since this event was in the White's (and it is "my" blog), it would be a worthy topic. We started out early and decided to head up I93 through the Franconia Notch. We both realized while entering Coos County, that this was the farthest north in New Hampshire, each of us had been in a very long time.

Jill and I on the deck of prior to starting the training class

The tour at Bretton Woods starts right in the ski lodge and they have tables with your respective tour times that you hangout at until the tour guides come get you. It seemed to me that they had tours go out every thirty minutes. Each group was made up of eight participants and two tour guides. Our tour guides (Kevin and Doug) were great. From the very beginning, prior to getting any equipment on, they were cracking jokes, but at the same time, did keep a professional attitude. They made you feel safe the entire time and I would highly recommend them to anyone calling to make reservations.

Getting the equipment on was a new experience. There was a full body harness that captured all your limbs with giant metal carabiners and trolleys hanging off from it. I must say, and I think I can speak for everyone in the group that day, that the harnesses are less than comfortable. However, when thinking about safety, I would much rather be a bit uncomfortable than injured. We also got to sport rock climbing helmets and pretty thick leather gloves. Finally, Doug came around and tethered our cameras directly to our harnesses so that we could snap some good pictures of the this great experience.

Jill getting ready to make her first zip run

Jill getting some tips after her first rope repel

We headed out of the equipment house and up a ski lift. Jill and I were able to ride up with our guide, Kevin, and he pointed out to us all the interesting summer activities that Bretton Woods had going on. We were able to see a nice frisbee golf course they had as well as scooter trails heading down the mountain. Kevin also explained that Bretton Woods was located on both Mount Rosebrook and West Mountain (also known as Mount Oscar I believe) combined.

Jill on the zip line

At the top of the ski lift, we made our way up on the deck of a building where our guides offered to take some pictures. From there, we had a six minute walk to our first zip line training class. Here, we realized that this was not the typical zip line ride, where you hook up, hold on and go. But instead, this was a technical zip line tour. You were highly responsible for how your zip run went. At the training class, we learned how to properly hang in the harness by not applying pressure to the trolley, how to break using friction from an open handed leather glove on the lower cable, how to steer (in the event headwinds twisted you) and good form to ensure you could build up enough speed to make it to the other side. You were responsible for all of this as well as paying attention to the guide who was providing hand signals like an air traffic controller. In between all of this, you were able to absorb all the beautiful views.

One of the two suspension bridges

Heading to the first real zip line, we learned that there were nine zip lines in all, two suspension bridges, three rope repels and about a 1,000 foot elevation drop from start to finish. The course is setup to go from less "intimidating" to more "intimidating". To begin, you run through a couple small zip lines, which have a gentler grade down and not much distance, so you get experience using your newly learned techniques. After these, the fun begins. In the following zip lines, you are much higher up off the ground and gain much more speed. It isn't long before you realize how high in the trees you really are, as the small platforms you are standing on sway noticeably back and forth.

Mount Washington in the clouds (Cog and Ammonoosuc Ravine can be seen)

As we continued on, walking among the birds, we came to two high, suspension bridges in series. These bridges were very cool and some people thought they were the scariest part of the whole tour. They bounced quite a bit while traversing, but they were a great way to get from tree platform to tree platform. At the end of the second bridge, we came to the baddest zip of all! This zip line seemed so high up! The path crossed a ski trail and then disappeared back into the tree tops. We asked Doug what speed we may see on this run and he said possibly 35-40mph. This was the first run that I got an adrenaline rush. It was truly amazing. As I flew through the sky, my fears subsided and I made sure to look to my right, where I saw a beautiful view of Mount Washington and the surrounding Presidentials. It was awesome and definitely my favorite part of the day.

Our guide, Doug, zip lining over on sickest cable of them all

The rest of the tour went by quickly because we were having so much fun. It consisted of some more zips and longer repels. The last repel being a pretty lengthy drop. I did not ask how high it was, but I have to guess 60-100 feet or so. The guides continued to be extremely helpful, funny and patient with us. You could tell they loved their jobs. Doug and Kevin were great and gave us small history lessons while hooking us up. They told us about the logging history of New Hampshire and how we have been able to restore the beautiful forests at an extraordinary rate from when it was heavily logged years ago. Being a history buff, I enjoyed this very much.

Jill repelling off the last rope

The tour came to an end on the Williwaw Racing Zip. This zip was straight down to the base resort (our starting point) and ran two side-by-side, so you could race. This zip was different than the rest because it was not in the three tops and did not require any technical knowledge. They changed out our technical trolleys and hooked us up to these special trolleys with hand grips. Jill and I raced, and she won. The reason why is because she cheated. She started at the two count, when we were supposed to go on three! That's okay though, I still had fun.

Jill and I after a fun filled day on the Canopy Tour

I have to say, I wasn't sure what to expect on this trip. I was certainly nervous when we started, but the guides, as well as the way these exercise were introduced, subsided my apprehension greatly. The cost for this tour is $110, which may seem high, but when you think about it, it is truly a great deal. It is almost four hours long and well worth the money. Also, I believe you get a discount if you are staying at the Mount Washington Hotel. Bretton Woods also has a Facebook fan page, which sometimes has deals for this package posted, if they have available slots. I would recommend this to anyone...it was so much fun. I thank Kevin and Doug too for being great guides (who knows if they would ever come across this blog or not to receive the thanks!). And obviously, thanks Jill for being such a great tree top companion for the day! I had a blast - hope you did too!



  1. Great post hun! Had an absolutely fabulous day in the treetops with you. -Jill

  2. Wow that looks like fun! I've been seeing these things pop up around NH but your post now makes me want to try one! That suspension bridge looks like the type of thing we'll be crossing in Nepal!

  3. Hey Dan,

    This was a blast. I highly recommend the one at Bretton Woods. I hope the one Nepal has the same safety constraints in place as this one in New Hampshire had! Something tells me the one in Nepal may be a bit scarier.


  4. Karl,
    Doug and I are glad that you enjoyed yourself on the tour. We strive to make it a great experience for all who tour, thanks for the kind words. Come back and join us during a different season.


  5. We did this in Wisc. over the summer. It was awesome! I'd love to go do this one too!