By Andy Yemma
BRETTON WOODS, NH (Day 4 of 4) – “Just sit down in the harness and roll to your right,” our guides tell us. Of course when you’re rolling to your right you are rolling right off the edge of a wooden platform attached to a white pine tree – 80 feet up in the air. Welcome to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Bretton Woods Ski Area Canopy Tour.
This is a combination of nine progressively thrilling zip line rides, two hikes across suspension bridges way up in the trees, and a couple of incredible rappelling experiences. It was the latter that really tested our mettle.
I was with my daughter Melanie, 21, an accomplished outdoors-woman, skier and adventurer, and Enesi Domi, 14, our new friend who we got to know through the Fresh Air Fund whose family immigrated to the Bronx in 2010. Melanie had done zip lining and rappelling before, as had I, though never at these heights and distances. For Enesi this was a truly unique experience.
After Melanie and Enesi successfully conquered their mental challenges of rolling off a perfectly good platform and rappelling 80 feet to the ground, I asked our guide: “is there another way down?”
“Not really unless you want to jump, but I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said. ‘Just relax and grip the rope and let it out gently,” he said.
“What if I lose my grip on the rope or it slips too much?” I asked again, with trepidation.
“Mike (the other guide) has your ‘belay’ at the bottom. He has complete control of the equipment. Even if you let go completely, he would get you down safely.”
I took a deep breath and decided it was not or never. I had tried this once before, in the Blue Mountains (actually canyons) or Australia in 2005. On one particularly steep cliff I let my fear get the best of me and I chickened out. Not this time I said, rolling to the right and, amazingly, not falling into the oblivion.
I gripped my rope with my right hand and let my left hand slide down under my rear end, “for that magazine look” as the guides said. I slowly let my grips loose and, incredibly, I just let gravity take over and rode down nice and slowly. When I got to the bottom , Melanie and Enesi gave me high fives and “nice jobs.
The zip lines were thrilling and not nearly as difficult to master. Several of them were more than 100 feet in the air, the highest platform being 145 feet and the longest run 829 feet. The two suspension bridges are 50 feet off the ground and 150 feet long each.
The entire course is on the slopes of the Bretton Woods Ski Area, New Hampshire’s largest near the base of famous Mount Washington. We were staying at the nearby historic Mount Washington Hotel, operated by Omni Resorts and Hotels.
You need to be 12 years or older to try this course and the price is $99 per person ($89 for Mount Washington Hotel guests). But that includes a lift ticket to the ski area for the day, a good deal. Even without the lift ticket bonus I would say it was worth the 2.5 hour experience, which we’ll be remembering and talking about for years.
“At first people are skeptical about the money but when they come back they tell us we don’t charge enough,” said Heather McKendry who manages the canopy tours. To do this in winter is a unique experience—first hiking a half mile off the ski trails to the first zip lines.
“You are pushed outside your comfort zone and you have a real sense of accomplishment at the end,” McHendry said. “What is really neat is there is a high perception of risk because most people haven’t done this before but the risk is really low and it is set up for success.”