Wade Beattie reflects on his time at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Canyon Cave Tour

Wade Beattie leads a tour group through the Glenwood Canyon Fairy Caves

When it comes to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, tram manager Wade Beattie has seen—and done—it all.

The Glenwood Springs native never expected to become an integral member of the Glenwood Caverns staff. He thought he would spend a summer interning as a college student from Colorado State University in 2003. Then, with experience under his belt, he was offered a full time position, and has since worked as a cave tour guide, tram operator, ride manager, marketing department staffer, and has finally ended up as the base manager of the tram.

Having grown up in Glenwood Springs, Wade didn’t plan on staying in the area for long but, as most of us know, life often takes you in different directions than you had anticipated. “I really found myself in that internship. The job has been a lot of fun, to work with employers who aren’t afraid to do new things, and open to new ideas. There’s just so much to do. If it wasn’t keeping me engaged, the work would get boring, but it hasn’t.”

In his time at the Adventure Park, Wade has been impressed with how many people love coming to the Caverns—being at the top of the Rocky Mountains, among friendly people. “Our mission is to make people smile, and we really enjoy getting the positive feedback from people,” he says. “At the base of the tram, we get to hear a lot of people’s stories.” One such story that sticks out in Wade’s mind was a fellow from Vietnam, who was on his first ever trip to the United States. Wade got a chance to talk to this man on the viewing deck of the Park. “He was elated to be here. It was a big deal for him to come all the way here and be at the top of the mountain with this amazing view.

“For some people, like that man, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. A lot of folks will say they’ve never done anything as fun as the Wild Cave Tour, or never seen such a great view, or have never done anything as exciting as the Giant Swing or Bungee Jump. They are very proud of those experiences,” Wade commented.

Wade has gotten to see a wide and diverse range of visitors over the years, from all over the country and the world, including some that might not have been expected. “There are a lot of Amish and Mennonite folks who like coming to Glenwood on the train,” says Wade. “Glenwood Springs is a great place for outdoor activites, so they’ll ride bikes and be in walking distance to everything, then come up here and do the rides and cave tours. They stand out in a crowd, are very friendly and we love to have them here.”

Being a tram manager means that Wade gets to see how people change from the beginning of their visit to the end. “A lot of people aren’t too sure what to think at the base when they first get here. They’re not sure what it’s about. Then, there’s almost a tranformation at the end of the day. After they’ve gone up and come back, you can see that their eyes have lit up, they’ve loved the views, had fun on the rides and the cave tours, and it’s interesting to see how they’ve brightened after the experience,” he says.

The continual additions and expansions at the Adventure Park have kept Wade and the rest of the employees busy, and will continue to do so, as the Park ramps up for another lively summer season, with a new roller coaster in the works and other new, exciting projects on the horizon. He’ll continue to be at the base of the tram, making sure all the guests get up and down the mountain easily and happily. If you happen to see him this spring or summer, make sure you say hello!

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2012 Music on the Mountain Summer Lineup

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs launches the fourth season of its popular Music on the Mountain concert series on Friday, May 25. Enjoy summer evenings filled with music, drink specials and a free tram ride in exchange for a canned food donation to benefit the LIFT-UP food pantry.

Here’s the list of upcoming bands:music on the mountain logo

The Starletts May 25
(concert series Kick-off Party)
Motown, contemporary & soul

BooCoo June 2
Rock, blues, latin & reggae

Night Plane June 9
Acoustic rock

Fifty/50 August 11
Classic rock ‘n roll + creative originals

Us and Them August 18
Pink Floyd tributes

The Rock Dogs August 25
Alternative + danceable classic rock

Hell Roaring String Band Sept 8
Acoustic bluegrass & Celtic tunes to rock ‘n roll

Already Gone September 15
Rhythm and blues, new country, top 40, funk, blues & rock ‘n roll

The Missing Link Band September 24
Dance rock, funk and groove tunes

go to our Music on the Mountain web page for more details

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Glenwood Caverns Mountain Mgr. Nancy Heard Video Interview

Glenwood Caverns mountain operations manager Nancy Heard talks about park attractions, both old and new

A big THANKYOU shoutout to the Glenwood Springs High School media class and their BeHeard TV project!

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Pardon our Dust: More Fun is on the Way!

There is a lot of activity — and some dust — at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park right now as preparations are underway for an exciting summer season. Here’s what is in the works…

Platform for the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Platform for the new Cliffhanger Roller Coaster

The Cliffhanger Roller Coaster — the highest-elevation, full-sized roller coaster in the U.S. — will sit above the rest of the park at an elevation of 7,160. The base, shown here, is in and the coaster itself will arrive soon. Check out the views!

There will be a beautiful walkway to reach the Cliffhanger. It winds back and forth through the pinion trees so that it’s not too steep, with beautiful views along the way.

Walkway to the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster at Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs

Walkway to the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster

The Mine Wheel, which is a Ferris-wheel-style ride, will sit where the Climbing Wall used to be, just above the gemstone sluice box mining. The Climbing Wall will be on the other side of Discovery Rock.

The Wild West Express family roller coaster will be located just past the Alpine Coaster on the right.

Prepping Site for the new Wild West Express at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Prepping the site for the new Wild West Express

Silk’s Saloon Old Tyme Photos is expanding up and out, which will provide more room to get those souvenir photos taken.

Finally, the work to expand the cave tours is progressing very well. It’s a very slow process since everything has to be removed from the cave in buckets and wheelbarrows, and great care is taken to protect the cave formations. The new tours should be available in early 2013.

Stay tuned for updates on when the new attractions will open! In the meantime, please pardon our dust.

Colors on New Cave Route at Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs

Making progress on the new cave route at Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs

View from Cliffhanger Roller Coaster at Glenwood Caverns

How about these views from the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster platform!

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Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Colorado this Summer

Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure ParkGo jump off a cliff! Trekaroo, a popular family travel planning website, just released its list of the Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Colorado…and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is included! In the ever-popular Jump Off a Cliff category, written just for those thrill-seeking families out there, the Giant Canyon Swing is called out for “launching daring riders 1,300 feet out and over the Colorado River trailing below.”

The article also includes the Wild Tour, Alpine Coaster and Zip Ride, which when combined with the Bungee Jump and the new Cliffhanger Roller Coaster opening this spring, makes a pretty exciting day for adventurous families. Here’s how that day could play out this summer (many of these rides are seasonal, this is to help you plan your summer vacation) …

9 a.m. — Hop on board the Iron Mountain Tramway and enjoy a scenic ride to the Adventure Park, which is nestled in the mountains overlooking Glenwood Springs, Colorado, voted the Most Fun Town in America in the Rand McNally and USA Today Best of the Road program. Check out the park map during the ride so that you can hit the ground running when you get to the top.

Alpine Coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park9:30 — Ride the Alpine Coaster one or five times. It was the first in the U.S. and is still the longest Alpine Coaster in Colorado. You will love it. Kids at least eight years old and 56” tall can ride alone, kids three and older can ride with an adult.

10:15 — Ride the new Cliffhanger Roller Coaster! Located slightly above the rest of the park, sitting at 7,160 feet, you’ll get amazing views of the Roaring Fork Valley…if you can keep your eyes open as it whips you around the curve right along the edge of Glenwood Canyon.

11:00 — Head for the Giant Canyon Swing, which was featured on the Travel Channel and Good Morning America, and see what all the fuss is about. Watch it a time or two, then get strapped in for the ride of a lifetime. Make sure someone has the video camera going so you can prove that you rode it.

view of bungee tower from a distance, with wade jumping11:45 — Make your way to the Bungee Tower. You can try the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride first, which zips you down the mountain, over the Alpine Coaster, and then back up to the top again. If you’re really brave, it’s time to try the Bungee Jump. It’s 70 feet up; you can jump, free fall backwards, or dive head first. Again, make sure someone is taping it so you can share your screams with your friends later.

12:30 — Time for lunch. The Lookout Grille offers some of the best panoramic views in Colorado, and features burgers, salads, sandwiches, a great kids’ menu and more.

1:30 — While you’re in the building, head upstairs and try out the Laser Tag Arena. It was just repainted this year, and the kids will have a blast.

2:15 — Head back outside and take your pick: the new Mine Wheel or Wild West Express Coaster, perfect for the young ones in the group, or race through Fort WhereAmI, a giant Western-style human maze. Take your camera and snap some shots from the towers, the views are incredible.

3:00 — You might need a breather now, so grab a cold drink at the Snack Shack and try the gemstone sluice box mining, pick out a geode and have it cut, or see how good of a shot you are at the Mining Shaft Shootin’ Gallery. You can also get an old time photo taken at Silk’s Saloon.

4:00 — Take the guided 70-minute tour of Glenwood Caverns and Historic Fairy Caves. It’s suitable for almost everyone, but there are 127 steps down and back up again, so be prepared to carry the little ones if needed. (Sign up at the base when you arrive in the morning, the tours can fill up during the summer.)

5:15 — Pick your favorite rides and try them again!

Iron Mountain Tramway at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park6:30 — Time for another cold drink on the deck at the Lookout Grille, and maybe a slice of pizza at the Snack Shack. If you can stay for the sunset, you won’t be disappointed.

If your family is not quite adventurous enough for the Giant Canyon Swing, and Cliffhanger Roller Coaster and Bungee Jump, never fear. You’ll find plenty to do. The park also features a sand pit fossil dig, climbing wall, Giddy Up Western Ride, Wild West Wagon ride, new Mine Wheel and Wild West Express Coaster.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is located just off I-70, midway between Vail and Aspen. During the winter and spring, guests can enjoy the Iron Mountain Tramway, Alpine Coaster, Laser Tag, 4D Motion Theater and guided cave tours. The rest of the park’s attractions are scheduled to open by Memorial Weekend. For more information, visit glenwoodcaverns.com or call 800-530-1635, ext. 0.

Read the whole Trekaroo “Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Colorado” list.

Now, who’s ready for summer?

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Bluebird Finds New Nest

With more and more visitors discovering Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, it was time to add to the transportation options for bringing people up and down Iron Mountain. The tram is a fun and interesting way to make the trip, but in inclement weather or for large groups, another, reliable way to get around was becoming increasingly necessary.

A new bus was the obvious choice. It was agreed that the ideal model was a Bluebird. Bluebird buses are known to be strong and reliable, perfect for carrying people on Transfer Trail Road. The preferred model was one that is comfortable and accessible, with large, open windows and cushy seating. The problem was that this particular type of Bluebird bus was pretty rare, and the closest one they could find was in Las Vegas, Nevada. The staff decided to purchase it and have it wrapped with a large, colorful design created by their graphic designer, Alice Sjoberg.

colorful bus parked at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park tram base

The Bluebird found a new nest at Glenwood Caverns
photo by Mandy Gauldin

Wade Beattie, longtime employee, tram manager and all around go-to man was dispatched to pick the bus up. Tasked with this solo mission, Wade flew to Vegas and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, then got the bus and drove it back the nearly 600 miles from Las Vegas to Glenwood. “I got a few strange looks,” he said, pulling up to gas stations and rest stops in a brightly colored, freshly wrapped Bluebird bus. “I had a really fun ride though. The wide open windows allowed for great, unobstructed views.” From 72 degrees in Las Vegas to ice on the gas pumps in Beaver, Utah, he experienced all the variety in weather that the West has to offer and made it back to Glenwood safe and sound.

The new bus should be put into service this spring, so be on the lookout for something large and colorful driving around Glenwood Springs. Wade and the rest of the employees are very excited about the new addition to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park!

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Glenwood Springs: Most Fun Town for a Colorado Spring Break

Girl on Alpine CoasterThere’s a reason Glenwood Springs was named the Most Fun Town in America by Rand McNally and USA Today. It really is fun, and that makes it a great destination for spring breakers. Whether you live on the Front Range and need a staycation, or are coming from out-of-state for your Colorado ski trip, we hope you’ll consider Glenwood Springs.

During March and early April, here’s a look at what you can do in Glenwood Springs:

Spend a day with us! In the off-season, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has smaller crowds than you’ll find here in the summer. Our Winter Fun Pass will still be available, and it’s an incredible deal. For just $31 per person, you get a round-trip ride on the Iron Mountain Tramway, or a bus in inclement weather, a 70-minute guided Cave Tour, and unlimited access to the Alpine Coaster, 4D Motion Theater and Laser Tag Arena. You can add lunch at the Lookout Grille and spend around $160 for a family of four.

Ski or ride at one or more of the seven ski resorts located within an hour of Glenwood Springs, including Vail, Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Sunlight Mountain Resort. That’s especially nice because the lodging in Glenwood Springs is significantly more affordable than in neighboring Aspen and Vail, and you are located right in the middle of these world-class resorts.

Glenwood Hot Springs PoolPlay and relax at the Glenwood Hot Springs, the world’s largest hot springs pool, which is well known for its healing mineral waters. Weather permitting, the pool’s two water slides will be open the last two weeks of March, which adds even more fun to your swim. The pool is open until 10 p.m. every night, so you can spend the day with us, and then relax in the pool afterwards.

You can also laugh the night away at the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, get pampered at one of several spas in town, take a snowmobile tour, go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, choose from an amazing variety of restaurants and go shopping. With more than 100 stores, Glenwood Springs is the largest retail shopping area between Denver and Grand Junction.

You can learn more about visiting Glenwood Springs on our website. Hope we see you soon!

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The Lookout Grille: Away From It All

On a clear morning in early February, feeling cooped up but with work still to do, I decided to change up my routine and take the tram up to the Lookout Grille at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for some coffee, a snack, and some views. Lookout Grille getaway restaurant table winter tram on a very snowy dayI boarded the tram, headed up, and marvelled at the 360 degree view of Glenwood – you could see it all! The steam rising from the Hot Springs Pool, the winding Colorado River flowing westward through the valley, Iron Mountain in front of me, Coal Seam Mountain behind, Mount Sopris in the distance. Vehicles on 1-70 began to look more like toy cars as we ascended. Arriving at the top, I stepped out of the tram car and headed into the restaurant.

It was a quiet mid-morning, with a few visitors eating an early lunch and people coming in from their adventures, ready for a hot chocolate after a coaster ride or cave tour. The employees chatted warmly with the customers and each other. I found a quiet corner at one of the wooden tables. A hot cup of coffee and a stone fireplace kept me warm as I worked on my laptop, using the free wi-fi available in the restaurant. I broke occasionally to look out the large windows at the surrounding mountains and valley below.

An hour or so later, having had my fill of caffeine and work, I packed up and took the tram back down the mountain. It had started to snow lightly, and I as I descended I watched the flakes fall across Glenwood Springs, and felt lucky to live in such a beautiful place. With a pleasant respite from the “real world,” I felt ready to face whatever the rest of the day would bring!

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Retreats Offer New Perspectives for Management Team

Each fall, after the summer crowds are gone, the Glenwood Caverns management team travels to an amusement park or attraction to see first-hand what each one offers, experience its customer service and come up with ideas for improving and expanding the Adventure Park. In recent years, the destinations have included Disney World, Universal Studios, Silver Dollar City and Royal Gorge.

2011 was no exception. In fact, the team enjoyed two different retreats. The first was in September in Virginia, where they visited Monticello and the New Market battlefield. They stayed at the Mimslyn Inn, which was quite a hit with the managers and supervisors, and toured three different caves in the area. The Grand Caverns is the oldest, continuously open show cave. It was open for tours during the Civil War, and the soldiers went on some of the tours. They also went to the Luray Caverns and the Shenandoah Caverns.

“The retreats provide an opportunity to really focus on one another. We are able to plan and brainstorm for the upcoming summer while seeing other attractions. We all leave with a better understanding of each other and one another’s positions,” explained Eric Brotherson, business development manager. “The end result will be more smiles on our faces and the faces of our valued guests.”

In November, the team headed to Colorado Springs, where they visited Cave of the Winds and Santa’s Workshop/The North Pole. Looks like they had a great time!

Glenwood Caverns Management Retreat 2011

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Glenwood Caverns’ First Employee Looks Back

Tour Guide manager Bob Koper standing near King's Row formation

Tour Guide manager Bob Koper in King's Row at Glenwood Caverns
Kelly Cox photo

Bob Koper knows a thing or two about being underground.

The longtime Glenwood Caverns tour guide has been sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge about the historic caves since 1999, the first year they were open to the public. Steve Beckley, Glenwood Caverns co-owner and operator, hired him on as the very first employee, as a manager and as the first tour guide.

Prior to joining the Caverns, Koper taught science at Rifle High School for 30 years. Among the many outdoor excursions he took his students on were field trips to the Fulford Caves, so he had some experience as a cave guide. After retiring from teaching, guiding cave tours at the Glenwood Caverns seemed like a natural position for someone who loved the outdoors and teaching. Twelve years later, he is still going strong as the Caverns’ most experienced tour guide, leading the Wild Tours as well as educational programs for both local and national school groups. He serves as a manager and trainer of new tour guides, and he also finds time to teach geology and astronomy at Colorado Mountain College.

For Bob, the best part of the job has been watching the Caverns change and grow year after year. “Steve [Beckley] is so innovative. He is truly a visionary, and it has been so much fun to see the progression. Every year, there’s something new and exciting,” he says.

Koper’s enthusiasm for the park has spread to his family members. About two years ago, he brought his granddaughter Gabby, then nine years, to the Park with him. She wanted to ride the Giant Canyon Swing, so he left her in the capable hands of the swing attendants and went to do some work. Some time later, he realized that she had been gone for awhile, so he went back to the swing, and she was still on it. She had ridden it 47 times! And she wasn’t done, either. She ended up riding the swing 72 times that day.

Koper says that being a tour guide is a life changing experience. “You become more outgoing. You learn how to stand up in front of people and feel comfortable. You’re not afraid to speak and show your excitement. It really changes a person in that way,” he says.

For his day to day work as a tour guide, Koper is challenged to keep introducing an exciting experience for guests every day – but he doesn’t find it difficult. “It’s very rewarding to see people’s smiles and to share in their excitement,” he says. His enthusiasm and energy spreads to the guests, and vice versa, which keeps every day interesting and invigorating.

Koper’s dedication to teaching people about the caves and his camaraderie with his fellow employees keep him going year after year, and he is excited for the future of the park, which will continue to expand. He proudly mentioned that the caverns just had a good year, even in the rough economy. “Especially considering that people aren’t traveling as much, we’ve had a great year,” he says. That’s no accident, though…and a lot of credit goes to the passionate and hardworking employees, just like Bob Koper!

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