NC's first Alpine Coaster

Each run on the first alpine coaster includes three circular loops, a series of waves and lots of twists. Riders use hand brakes to control speeds, which can reach 27 miles per hour.

BANNER ELK — Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster has opened in the North Carolina mountains, offering thrill rides for all ages on a Banner Elk mountainside.

Each run on the first alpine coaster includes three circular loops, a series of waves and lots of twists. Riders use hand brakes to control speeds, which can reach 27 miles per hour.

“You’re looping, dipping or turning. There is no point where you are just riding,” said Eric Bechard, who co-owns the coaster with his wife, Tara. “It’s very fast and a whole lot of fun.”

Wilderness Run is modeled after coasters in Europe and built by Germany’s top alpine coaster company, Wiegand Sports. Riders navigate the track in individual carts that accommodate up to two people.

The 3,160-foot run begins with a cable-pulled ascent of 770 feet. At that point, the alpine coaster differs from a roller coaster as the remainder of the ride is gravity-fed, with riders in control of two braking handles.

The six-acre attraction also includes a clubhouse, observation deck and gift shop.

The Bechards met while working for the military in Europe in the early 2000s. They enjoyed riding alpine coasters during that time, particularly Tara, who decided her future would include building a coaster somewhere near her native state of Tennessee.

It took Tara more than 15 years, but her dream became a reality when Wilderness Run opened May 9. The Bechards are excited about the long-term potential with Banner Elk being a popular visitor destination. They have plans to add lights to the track and carts for night rides.

“We’re right across from Sugar Mountain, just a few miles from Beech Mountain and Grandfather Mountain, and we have all the restaurants and things to do in Banner Elk,” Tara said. “It’s the perfect location.”

Wilderness Run is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, year-round. Advance reservations are required Friday, Saturday and Sunday until July 12. Reservations are not required Monday through Thursday.

Adult tickets, for ages 14 and up, are $16 for a single ride or $35 for three rides. Youth tickets, for ages 7 to 13, are $13 for one ride or $29 for three rides. Child tickets, for ages 3 to 6 are $5 for one ride or $12 for three.

For info, visit www.WildernessRunAlpineCoaster.com or call (828) 898-7866.

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