Tracks view

The view from the top of the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster down the tracks as pictured in the summer of 2019. The state’s first attraction of its kind is scheduled to open for local patrons this weekend.

BANNER ELK — Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster near Sugar Mountain was scheduled to open to local patrons on Saturday, May 9, according to a post from the business on social media.

“We are thrilled with the response we have received from everyone with the announcement of the alpine coaster FINALLY opening. As of now, the governor of North Carolina has announced that on May 8 nonessential business may open, but the stay-at-home order is still in effect through Phase 1 ... Reservations are open for May 9-22 for Phase 1. We ask only locals make reservations during this time,” according to the business’s recent social media postings. “Our steps to remain in compliance to the guidelines that the state has mandated ... we will limit reservations to locals [defined as within 45 minutes of the facility] to a maximum of 20 individuals within an hour, allowing us to keep proper social distancing to six feet apart and proper sanitation requirements to our sleds and building.”

Although they are excited to welcome customers to a new form of entertainment and the first attraction of its kind in North Carolina, safety is at the forefront for the owners and operators.

“During this time, our top priority is the safety of our patrons and staff. We ask that our patrons follow social distancing guidelines that have been set and remain home if they are symptomatic,” the post noted. “We ask that out-of-town patrons please be patient till Phase 2 to visit the coaster. During Phase 1 we will not accept walk ups; you must reserve your spot via our website.”

Wilderness Run is the first alpine coaster built in the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers views of Sugar Mountain Ski Resort as it races down a 3,160-foot track.

The ride starts at approximately 770 feet up a mountain, with gravity providing the horsepower and propulsion, accelerating to up to 27 miles per hour, with riders able to control the speed with a brake located on the side of the car. The ride boasts a trio of close-to-360-degree turns.

The coaster is owned and operated by Army veteran Eric Bechard and his wife, Tara, and Wilderness Run will be offering discounts to local patrons in the initial days of opening.

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