Mountain Spy

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In this month’s Mountain Spy, we mark an unfortunate first: two epic fails. With summer operations growing in popularity, it pays to make sure the folks answering the phones are as good as your winter best. Or perhaps these were your winter best and they need some time off!


QUESTION: I'VE HEARD A LOT ABOUT YOUR ZIPLINE AND HOW FUN IT IS,
BUT I'M NERVOUS ABOUT TRYING IT. IS IT SAFE?


MOUNTAIN 1, VT

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Uh, yeah. You're actually strapped in. You go in like a soft sling, or swing chair, whatever you want to call it.
SAM: OK.
Staff: Yeah, and then you climb up the platform and they release you and you come back down! It's about a half mile.
SAM: So I'm sitting in a chair thing?
Staff: Yes. Yes. (Whew, glad we got that technical term clarified.)
SAM: Um, OK.
Staff: They put you in a chair and they release it and you come right down on the zipline.
SAM: Sounds fun.
Staff: Ha ha, they will explain it better. (Then why are you answering the phone?)
SAM: I guess I'll come watch it a few times.
Staff: Yeah! You can come look at it before you take the plunge! We have other things here to do as well. Silence...
SAM: Cool.
Staff: All right, have a good day!

Rating: 2
Comment: Seriously? I’ll be taking my money-carrying thing elsewhere.



MOUNTAIN 2, NM

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Well, they've taken all the safety precautions that they could, so ah... I'm going to let you talk to one of our representatives who knows more about it. One second please. (Nice save!)
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Uh, very. We do safety courses all the time. Actually the man that's in charge of safety on the mountain is also in charge of the zipline. He's very knowledgeable and very safety conscious.
SAM: OK.
Staff: The biggest thing you need to do is they have a flight school before you get on the zipline. You go up and watch this two-minute video and it tells you what to do and what could get you in trouble. Like you're suspended under some wheels, so if you've got really long hair, put it up! Don't just let it flow free. And put your hands where they tell you to put them. And then after the flight training they put you on some shorter runs and watch you closely to make sure you were paying attention so you don't panic when they put you on the long run.
SAM: Sounds good.
Staff: And they way we do our zipline is a little unusual and time consuming and we don't make as much money as we could, but we put two guides with you. So one guide goes across first, and then the people go, and then the second guide goes. So they don't just hand you the ticket and say "see you around!"
SAM: Great, that makes me feel better.
Staff: You bet! And when you're ready to make your reservation, we do sell out at the end of the summer, so be sure to make it sooner rather than later.
SAM: Will do, thanks!

Rating: 8
Comment: Patient and thorough never hurts.



MOUNTAIN 3, MT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: It's, um, it's not too, too high up. The ziplines are, ah, I'm not sure the number of feet they are across, but they are a very safe activity.
SAM: OK.
Staff: Yup. You're hooked into a harness as well as a back up harness, so you have two lanyards so in case anything were to happen you have a back-up.
SAM: All right. Have you done it?
Staff: I have! I just went last week.
SAM: And was it fun? Did it feel safe?
Staff: Definitely. And the guides are really good with that and make you feel comfortable. They do a safety check at each zipline. They hook you in so you're not expected to hook yourself in or anything like that. They definitely take care of you.
SAM: OK then, I guess I'll come try it.
Staff: You should! Have fun!

Rating: 5
Comment: I really had to get that out of her, but she had a good attitude. Still, the area website should answer the phone, considering its endless amount of details about the zipline.



MOUNTAIN 4, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Ha ha, well they do put you in a safety harness, and it does have a safety latch as well as an extra line. So it's very secure. And there is a member of our staff at each end.
SAM: OK. So I have someone there with me who makes sure I'm strapped in properly?
Staff: Yes, of course! They will help you into the harness and make sure you are completely secure before sending you on the zipline, and then someone helps you out at the end.
SAM: So do you just go faster and faster and faster or is it a controlled speed?
Staff: I wouldn't really call it a controlled speed. It is basically a pully on a line, um, but it's not really, really long and it's not really fast. I've seen people have a great time. It is a shorter ride. It's not like you're going 300 feet all the way down the mountainside or anything like that. But it's fun! It's $15 for two rides and it is very fun and safe.
SAM: Great. So it's just that simple, or can I read more about it somewhere?
Staff: Um, it really is that simple. For more information about day passes and other tickets you can visit www.abc.com.
Staff: Cool, thanks!

Rating: 7
Comment: Short and sweet with a splash of enthusiasm. Still, I had to coax the website mention.




MOUNTAIN 5, NY

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, I can tell you it's very safe, but let me transfer you to their extension and they can help you with that...
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Um, we are extremely safe. The only injuries we've had are minor scrapes and bruises. Silence...
SAM: OK. Um, so someone helps me?
Staff: Yeah, you're guided through the whole tour. Silence...
SAM: OK then, thanks.

Rating: 0
Comment: Ouch! No customer service skills and the only concrete information I got was that I might get hurt, just not badly.



MOUNTAIN 6, NH

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Very safe. Silence...
SAM: OK.
Staff: We haven't had any injuries. Silence...
SAM: OK. I've just never done one before, but have heard a lot about it and just wanted to find out a little more and make sure it was safe.
Staff: Yup. Definitely safe.
SAM: OK, then. Thanks.

Rating: 0
Comment: No comment, which seems to be her motto.



MOUNTAIN 7, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose appropriate number.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, extremely! What it is is you wear a harness. And it's a whole course actually, not just one zipline. So it's seven ziplines, two bridges and three belays. It is $79 per person and it lasts upwards of about two hours.
SAM: OK.
Staff: But it's completely safe. You're connected to the zipline at three points at all times. So you're always connected. There's three different points where you're connected.
SAM: OK.
Staff: You go up with two guides. One is the lead and the other is the sweep. The sweep sends you on the zipline and the guide catches you and pulls you in. It's an automatic braking system so you don't have to worry about using a hand brake or anything.
SAM: Awesome.
Staff: Ha ha, yeah, that's a plus. Um, you have to weigh at least 80 pounds, but no more than 250. Um, we recommend close-toed shoes. No sandals or flip flops. Just because where you land is a grate, so we don't want you to catch any toes on that.
SAM: OK, sounds good.
Staff: And we provide the helmet and harness and they give you a safety talk before hand, and um, yeah...
SAM: Cool. So I always have two people with me?
Staff: Right.
SAM: And you go in groups I assume?
Staff: Right. Groups of up to eight. So you would sign up for a particular time and whoever else signs up for that time goes as well.
SAM: Great. Well that's good to know I have guides with me the whole time.
Staff: Oh yeah. Nope, all the time. And like I said, you're always connected by three points so there's really no way of falling or anything!
SAM: Well, thanks so much for your help!
Staff: No problem!

Rating: 9
Comment: Detailed information that boosted my
confidence. Minus 1 for no website mention—the area website has a ton of great info on the zipline.
Identity Revealed: Okemo



MOUNTAIN 8, NH

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: It's very safe. We do safety inspections on it every morning before we actually start for the day. OK?
SAM: And how do you control the zipline?
Staff: It's not really a zipline. This is a zip rider, so it's like a chair that you're sitting in. You don't have any control over your speed. So there is a little bit of a difference between the two.
SAM: OK.
Staff: But it's a lot of fun. It's a half-mile cable run. You'll enjoy it.
SAM: So you just keep getting faster and faster then?
Staff: Yup, you just go straight down. It's a spring-braking system at the bottom. That's what stops you.
SAM: Oh, OK. So it's not really an abrupt stop?
Staff: It is kind of an abrupt stop because it's a spring-braking system so you come down, depending on how fast you're going, you hit the spring break so it kind of pushes you up against that and jolts you back a little bit.
SAM: Umm, OK, I guess.
Staff: Does someone have any kind of health issues?
SAM: No, no health issues. I was just nervous doing it the first time. I heard it's fun, but I wanted to understand how it worked. And I guess you're strapped in?
Staff: Yup. You are. There's a strap that comes up between your legs and two straps that come over your shoulders and you’re buckled right into that chair. And your feet are dangling and then you're released and you just come down that cable.
SAM: OK. So you can only go so fast right? You don't just speed out of control?
Staff: Right. Yeah. It can go up to about 40 mph, but most people will go about 20 to 30. And it depends on your weight. The heavier you are, the faster you go and the lighter you are the slower you go. It really is very safe.
SAM: Well, I take your word for it. Thanks for the info.

Rating: 6
Comment: Good info, but tough to get it out of her.



MOUNTAIN 9, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: How safe they are?
SAM: Yes.
Staff: Well, they all go through safety inspections. Let me put you through to the manufacturer actually.
SAM: Well, I don't think I need to talk to the manufacturer. I was just trying to get a general idea of how it works when I come to your resort.
Staff: Hold on one moment please, OK?
SAM: Sure. Hold time: 2 minutes.
Staff: Um, so I can tell you that when you go through signing up you have to be a certain age and be within a certain health and weight range. There's a whole lot you have to sign off on and read through to make sure you are healthy enough and that it's a good fit. And if you don't want to speak with the manufacturer you can go to our website and it will take you through all of the qualifications.
SAM: Sure. I can go to your website.
Staff: So if you go to xxx.com/y and you could go that route.
SAM: OK. Let me check. Thanks. I mean, I know everyone does it, I just wanted to make sure that someone helps you strap in, etc.
Staff: Oooh yes. We've had most of our staff go through it. And I finally did it after a long time and I was not excited about it, but I wanted to be able to talk about it and I felt very, very safe. And they go through a ground training to start off to make sure you're going to be OK. And they teach you how to start, how to brake and other details. And if you don't pass the ground training then you can't really move on. They want to make sure no one gets injured because it does have to be safe.
SAM: Well, that makes me feel better. I'll check out your website too.
Staff: That sounds great. Hope to see you soon.

Rating: 6
Comment: Eventually the details started flowing, but it took a little while.



MOUNTAIN 10, PA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Let me put you over to the zipline...
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Very! Safety is number one. That's why they have all the safety precautions and you wear a helmet and gloves. Everyone has to wear closed-toe shoes and there are weight restrictions. Silence...
SAM: OK. Are there people there to help you do it?
Staff: Yes. There are two guides that go with every group of eight people. You have a front guide and a back guide. And they hook and unhook you so you don't have to do that yourself, but yes, there is someone with you every step of the way.
SAM: Great. That makes me feel better.
Staff: Yeah, they take groups of eight and then the front guide goes out and then everyone goes to that platform and then the back guide follows. And then you go to the next platform.
SAM: Gotcha. That gives me a better understanding now.
Staff: Sure thing, have a great day.

Rating: 6
Comment: Good, basic info, but again, there's a great website with tons of info that was never mentioned... and would have made me even more confident.



MOUNTAIN 11, PA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, they're safe. Silence...
SAM: Um, OK.
Staff: Yeah. Um, let me transfer you to sales who can explain more about them.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: They're very safe. They whole time we've been open I don't think we've had any problem with it.
SAM: Um, OK.
Staff: So you are harnessed in and you're attached to the zipline at least twice. So on the off chance that let's say, one would break, you are backed up with another one. You go with two guides and one is in front of the group and one is in back, so we guarantee that we'll bring you back down. Ha ha! So, and um, it takes about three to three and half hours to complete with the group.
SAM: Oh! So it's a series of ziplines?
Staff: Yes. It consists of ten ziplines and in between each zipline are little obstacles like a rope bridge, hiking, Tarzan swing, cargo nets that you climb up.
SAM: OK, wow! But it sounds like fun. And it's all safe?
Staff: Yup! I've been three times now and I absolutely love it. So if you have any other questions feel free to give us a call or if you want to make reservations you can call us or you can make them online as well.
SAM: Good to know, thanks so much.

Rating: 7
Comment: Good information, but I don’t want to necessarily hear about the lack of accidents or that one might break.



MOUNTAIN 12, UT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, it's safe. We haven't had any accidents on it since it opened and last year was our second year. Silence...
SAM: Um, OK. Is there anything else? Does someone help you?
Staff: Yeah. And they actually take you on a, ah, no matter what, um, tour you sign up for, you go on a demo first, which is a really short one so you, ah, can get used to the feeling, um, and the harness. There's um, definitely a guide with you and like three or four people.
SAM: Oook. Thanks.
Staff: My pleasure. Have a nice day.

Rating: 3
Comment: Too short. And not very sweet. This resort has some great ziplines--such a shame...



MOUNTAIN 13, NY

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, the adventure park is absolutely safe. And it's not just ziplines. There's obstacles courses you go through in between the ziplines, but you're harnessed in at all times.
SAM: Cool.
Staff: So the harness has two lanyards that attach to the cables so you absolutely can't fall!
SAM: Perfect.
Staff: Yeah, or unless they wouldn't let us have it, you know!?
SAM: Great. Does anyone help you or are you by yourself?
Staff: You're by yourself, but there's someone that leads you through a safety demonstration beforehand to make sure you know how to use your harness and use the equipment and how to clip in. Because you have two lanyards that are clipped at all times, but you unclip one and clip it to the next obstacle, so one is always attached to something.
SAM: OK. And there's obstacles between the ziplines?
Staff: Yup. And we ask everyone to start out on our easier course and you can progress through to the more difficult ones as you feel comfortable. And the more difficult the course is, the higher in the air you go.
SAM: Awesome, that's great you have a beginner course to start on.
Staff: Yeah, I mean I'm terrified of heights and I've done it a few times! Is that everything?
SAM: I guess so thanks.

Rating: 7
Comment: Good explanation, but a little quick to get off the phone.



MOUNTAIN 14, CO

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, it's definitely safe or we wouldn't be operating it! Let me put you through to our ticket office who can explain how they operate it and all the safety precautions. Hold one second please...
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Well, you're in a climbing harness and you're hooked up to the line. They give you a helmet. You have to watch a safety video and as far as I know we haven't had any issues.
SAM: OK. So you think it's safe then? And are there people that help me?
Staff: Oh yes. Most definitely. There's people at both ends to get you harnessed in right and your helmet on right and walk up the stairs. They help you to get onto the zipline so you're hooked up right and then there's someone at the end of the zipline to help you out. And you wear closed-toes shoes and if you have long hair you pull it back. Silence...
SAM: OK. Great. Thanks.

Rating: 3
Comment: Sounds like she's repeated this a 1,000 times. Well, too bad, sister, I'm nervous! Take an extra minute to go through it with me.



MOUNTAIN 15, NH

First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Oh, well actually I've been on it myself and never once did I not feel safe by any means. You know it's a double hooking system on two cables so there's always a secondary backup on it. Um, you are up high in the trees, but even with folks who have an issue with height, it still works out with the canopy tour because of the way you're floating from one tree to the other so you only have an open space between the tress.
SAM: OK, so you felt safe on it?
Staff: Oh gosh yes! Like I said, it's a double hooking system so there's always a backup one. You always have two cables hooked to your body and then to the zipline on two separate cables. So, in the event that something happened to one of the cables, you still have one hooked to your body. And we've never had any incidents. And all of our cables go through bi-annual inspections on them so... I mean when I went I took my twelve-year-old son and he had a blast!
SAM: Well, if he can do it I can do it! Thanks.

Rating: 7.5
Comment: Fast talker! But good info that did make me feel safer.

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