Outdoor Adventure in Western Newfoundland Above and Below the Common Ground
By Steve Bergsman
I first encountered tourist-oriented zip lines in the tropics, where local entrepreneurs have figured a way to give a bit of zip to forest canopy tours. Increasingly, however, the lines have begun to appear in cold climates where the landscape is often dramatic no matter what the season.
My first winter zip-line tour was in Whistler, Canada, and although impressive, it was considerably tame compared to Marble Zip Tours just outside of the small city of Corner Brook, on the western edge of Newfoundland.
In Whistler, the zip line crisscrossed a ravine with a gurgling brook below; in Corner Brook, the zip line starts at the top of a large waterfall then crisscrosses a deep gorge. And sometimes the water cascading into the gorge is full-bore. When I was there just before the first days of winter, the genial Steady Brook had become a raging torrent, throwing up a cloud of mist so dense, the droplets fell like rain.
At some moments along the zip-line excursion it was hard to tell exactly what the weather was. The sky hung a threatening gray, snow flurries occasionally wafted through the turbulence, and then came the mist. If I wasn’t there for the fun of it, I would have thought I had wandered into the Canadian wilds.
Let me break here to define the word “fun,” which zip lines certainly are to most people. But I suffer from acrophobia in the worst way, so for me to step into a harness that connects onto a thin metal cable strung 285 feet above a rampaging body of water takes tremendous mental effort.
Marble Zip tours opened at the end of summer 2008 and although the vacation crowds were already thinning out, the business boomed from the start.
One part of its early success was the novelty: it was at the time the only zip line in eastern Canada. A second plus is the locale; it was built over a narrow, precipitous mountain gorge carved by the Steady Brook Falls.
For anyone who has never done a zip line, it is a very technologically basic adventure. You are strapped into two sets of harnesses, one for the chest and the other for your posterior. In effect, when strung up, you are sitting in a harness seat. Then hooks are attached to your harness and to the glide mechanism on the cable. The small amount of equipment is fairly ingenious, because even if you let go with your hands, you don’t tip.
At some point, you will run or step off into the void. Don’t worry, the raging waters below stay below. It’s a zip.