New toy in Duluth an ‘alpine coaster’ not an ‘alpine slide’

When I was a kid, the most awesome place to go downhill skiing was Spirit Mountain in Duluth. My dad would make a point of trying to drive all the way up from the Twin Cities on I-35 without touching the brakes even once.

I still tend to think of Spirit Mountain as a winter place. But Spirit Mountain has branched out quite a bit. The complex includes a campground, bike trails and banquet halls to keep visitors coming during the spring, summer and fall.

And now Spirit Mountain has the new Timber Twister, a year-round "alpine coaster" that opens to the public Thursday. It's a bit like a roller coaster in the woods, except that riders zoom downhill on individual cars. Riders control their speed, which can reach 26 mph.

A single ride for one person costs $8. Two riders on one car costs $12. You've got to be 4-feet tall and at least 8 years old to ride alone. And an advisory to head off tears and temper tantrums: kids under 3 can't ride at all.

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When I mentioned Duluth's new alpine coaster in the MPR newsroom, touting it as the first of its kind in Minnesota, a fellow editor asked, "What about the one in Lutsen?"

Spirit Mountain emphatically sets us straight. From the Spirit Mountain web site:

Unlike an alpine slide, the alpine coaster makes hairpin turns, is elevated off the ground like a roller coaster, and operates year-round due to its unique track system. ...

There are only four alpine coasters operating in the U.S. and this will be the only one in the Midwest. This is truly a unique attraction, and is NOT an alpine slide!!!

Not willing to just take Spirit Mountain's word for it, I did some extensive research (that is, a YouTube search) into the matter. It appears the Lutsen attraction is shorter and entirely on the ground, as opposed to the longer, raised track at Spirit Mountain.

The evidence ...