Confessions of a Glenwood Caverns Tour Guide: Kathy Miller

by Kathy Miller

Glenwood Caverns tour guide Kathy Miller on the job

I have been with Glenwood Caverns for almost six years now. I was looking for a part-time job and, having visited the Caverns, I felt that being a tour guide could be a weird, fun thing to have on the resume. Little did I know how weird and fun it would be! When I was hired the current cave manager was leaving and another was starting. I had the privilege of training with both and learned a lot from each of them.

Today I get to help with training new guides. My manager, Bob Koper, and I help guides with learning all the information and how to handle groups of people. Bob is a retired science teacher and he teaches all the science. I walk through the cave with trainees, teaching them how to navigate the caves, help the guests, and stay on schedule.

I also go over guide etiquette; for example, the guide going down the stairs must move in a quick and timely manner so the guide going up the stairs can have use of the platforms as needed.

Some times our guests are not acclimated to our altitude and can have trouble catching their breath. We learn to pay attention to everyone. For example, if someone is breathing heavily, you keep showing things and telling stories until they are ready to climb more stairs. As guides we are there to protect the cave, take care of our guests and, as our mission statement says, “Make People Smile”.

For four years now I have led the “wild tours”. A wild tour is a crawling adventure on your belly, working hard, and getting filthy dirty for 2–2 ½ hours. You spend 4–5 hours crawling with guests. When you lead walking tours, depending on your shift you will walk 3 ½ miles and climb up and down 400 stairs, or 5 miles and climb over 500 stairs. Needless to say, at the end of the day you are definitely tired!

I am often asked which is better, leading wild or walking tours. They are both great
in different ways. When you are walking through the cave with a wide-eyed five year old
full of excitement and questions, that experience is priceless. You know you are
creating a memory for that family and child. Seeing things through a child’s eyes
can be very refreshing!

Wild tours are a great way to build confidence. When we get to where we are about to turn around and head out, we pick a guest to lead us out. When someone starts out scared and timid, and in the end leads the group out of the cave with a big smile on their face, that is priceless. I especially like working with scout and youth groups. Caving is an activity that can build confidence in individuals and camaraderie amongst strangers. You rely on each other and encourage each other. Many times guests are swapping e-mail addresses afterwards. I joke that it is the only job where you can kick dirt in your boss’s face and step on the owner and it’s okay. I did both on the same day!

My favorite things about being a tour guide are the people, especially children, and the cave itself. I have had the opportunity to see and experience things that I would have never dreamed of. There are places in Iron Mountain that are jaw-droppingly amazing and I have sat there thinking, wow, I can’t believe I am here.

I have met all kinds of interesting folks from all over the world. It is our job to make people smile, but many of them have done the same for me. Last December, I took a Navy Chaplain stationed in San Diego and his grown son on a wild tour.  We had a blast! I mentioned to him that I was going to San Diego in a few weeks with my 78 year old mother-in-law. I told him that she was fascinated with the San Diego Navy culture because her brother was stationed there during WWII. He gave me his card, and once there he took us on base and we toured his ship. Mom was so thrilled, like a little kid. Chappy had some payback time for me from the wild tour.  After many stairwells and long hallways he asked me if I knew where we were. I had a good guess. He then showed me how to read the letters and numbers on the wall to figure it out.

This would not be complete without mentioning my co-workers. I work with a very fun and creative bunch of people. In following online reviews and our in-house surveys, when describing our guides we hear over and over again that they are friendly, knowledgeable, unscripted, funny, patient, helpful, courteous, good with kids, and they make learning fun. I am proud of our guides and glad to be part of that team.

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6 Tips for Enjoying a Family Trip to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park this Summer

Family posing for photo“We came to Colorado for the winter, but stayed because of the summer,” is a popular saying with people who’ve moved to the state. And summer in the mountains is truly spectacular. That’s one of the reasons it is our busiest time of year. The other reason, of course, is because that’s when kids are out of school. Here are some tips to help you plan and make the most out of your summertime visit.

  1. Mid-June to mid-August is our busiest time, so plan to stay at the park a little longer than you might at other times of the year because there will be lines for our most popular attractions.
    • Insider’s tip: Arrive at the base by 8:45 a.m. When you get to the top, go straight to the Alpine Coaster or Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, since they tend to have the longest lines. Then you can head to the other attractions.
    • Insider’s tip: Visit in the evenings after 5 p.m. when the temperatures are cooler and the lines are shorter, and enjoy beautiful mountain sunsets from our decks.
  2. It can get hot up here in the summer. Arrive early, we open at 9 a.m., and enjoy the outdoor attractions during the morning when it’s cooler outside. Even though it can be hot outside, it’s always 52 degrees inside the caves! A light jacket or sweatshirt is a good idea. There’s air conditioning inside the General Store gift shop and a giant fan right outside the door. Both feel pretty good on a hot afternoon!
    • Insider’s tip: Schedule a mid-afternoon Cave Tour, then try out the 4D Motion Theater and Laser Tag Arena afterwards.
  3. Weather in the Rocky Mountains is unpredictable, and it affects the availability of our attractions. Our highest priority is the safety of our guests and employees. We use state-of-the-art technology to track storms and when lightning or high winds are in our vicinity, we take immediate steps to protect you. This can include temporarily shutting down the Iron Mountain Tramway and switching over to use buses to carry guests up and down the mountain, as well as closing down our outdoor attractions until the storm has passed.
    • Insider’s tip: July and August are considered monsoon season in the mountains. More often than not, this includes an afternoon thunderstorm. The storms are usually brief. Head indoors for a cold drink or snack, or to try out the Laser Tag Arena or 4D Motion Theater. The line for the bus can be long if you head down right when the storm hits, but often the weather is beautiful after the storm and you can enjoy the cooler temperatures and shorter lines.
  4. The summer sun is strong. Wear sunscreen, reapply it often and don’t forget your ears, lips and the tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals. Wear a hat and light-colored clothing made of natural fabrics.
    • Insider’s tip: Forget your sunscreen? Head to the Guest Services Shack right outside the General Store gift shop and use ours!
  5. The dry air and the elevation can cause dehydration. Make sure you drink lots of fluids throughout the day. You can buy a refillable souvenir cup at the Lookout Grille, and bring it back anytime – even during another visit – for a free refill. If you feel lightheaded, find a shady spot to sit down and have a cold drink, preferably one that does not contain caffeine or alcohol.
    • Insider’s tip: you can get free ice water inside the Lookout Grille anytime.
  6. Set expectations with your kids. We’re parents, and we know how exciting it is to spend a long-awaited day at a favorite destination. We also know that emotions can run high and can impact your visit. To make your day fun for the whole family, involve your kids in the planning process. Compare our pricing options before you arrive; that will get you on the tram and up to the park quicker. Many of our attractions have age, height or weight restrictions; check these on the website before you arrive so that there are no surprises. Explain that there are often summer thunderstorms, and talk about what you’ll do if the weather impacts your visit.
    • Insider’s tip: Ask which rides and attractions your kids are most excited about, and let everyone pick two or three must-do activities for the day. Try to hit each person’s top choice early in the day.

Our website has a lot of information to help you plan and make the most out of your visit. You can also send us an email or give us a call at 1-800-530-1635, ext. 0, if you have any questions.

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Top 10 Ways to Beat the Heat at Glenwood Caverns!

Cave Tour at Glenwood CavernsDoes just looking at the forecast make you sweat? Here are the top 10 ways to cool off at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, courtesy of Bob Koper, our natural attractions manager:

10. Find one of our shade trees or tents and get out of the sun for awhile.

9. Stand in front of the giant fan in the plaza.

8. Race down the hill on the Alpine Coaster.

7. Enjoy the air conditioning in the General Store gift shop.

6. Hold on for an exhilarating ride on the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster.

5. Grab a cold drink or an ice cream cone.

4. Dangle up and down on the Bungee Jump.

3. Swing out over the cool Colorado River on the Giant Canyon Swing.

2. Take a tour inside Glenwood Caverns and Historic Fairy Caves, where it’s always a refreshing 52 degrees.

And the number one way to cool down:

1. Hang out with one of our really cool cave tour guides while you’re inside the caves.

Hope to see you up here soon!

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Special July 4 Music on the Mountain to Benefit Front Range Fire Victims

Glenwood Springs, Colorado — Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will host a special cans-for-a-tram Music on the Mountain concert with Already Gone on Wednesday, July 4, to benefit victims of the fires on the Front Range. The “cans-for-a-tram” rides will begin at 4 p.m., and the band will perform from 6 – 10 p.m.

Guests will be able to enjoy an evening of live music and a free tram or bus ride in exchange for donation of canned or non-perishable food or any of the following items, which have been specifically requested. New items only, please. (List updates July 2):

  • sunscreen
  • personal care and hygiene items
  • macaroni and cheese
  • canned soups and beef stew
  • ravioli
  • cereal

Financial donations in the form of checks written to the American Red Cross will also be accepted. Donations can be made at the tram base at any time through July 4.

“Our hearts go out to our fellow Coloradoans as we watch the news of the fires on the Front Range and the people who have either lost their homes or who have been evacuated,” Steve Beckley, who owns Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with his wife Jeanne, said. “Our community has been very generous in the past during our Music on the Mountain concerts, so we decided to provide an opportunity to support these families in need.”

Already Gone is one of the region’s most popular cover bands, featuring music genres such as classic rock, rhythm and blues, new country, top 40, funk, blues, and rock ‘n roll. Already Gone is comprised of Lisa Popish, Randy De Herrerra, Mark Chenowith, Eddie Muniz and Gean Graca. The Lookout Grille and Snack Shack will be open for dinner and refreshments; drink specials including $3 Coors Lights, Coronas and glasses of wine, and $4 well drinks, will be available in the plaza. The park’s rides and attractions will be open during the event; a Day Pass will cost $30 with the free tram ride.

For more information, please give us a call 800-530-1635 or 970-945-4228, ext. 0.

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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 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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