Specific Type: Steel, Bobsled
Opening in 1988, Avalanche would open up at Kings Dominion as its sixth coaster added at the park, and one of five operating at the time. It joined the parks lineup of other roller coasters which at the time included the Ghoster Coaster (1974), Rebel Yell(1975), Grizzly (1982), and Shockwave (1986); the Schwarzkopf shuttle loop coaster,King Cobra (1977), had left the park just two years prior to Avalanche’s opening.
The Avalanche, located in the Congo section of the park directly next to Volcano: The Blast Coaster, is a steel bobsled roller coaster built by Mack Rides (Heinrich Mack GMBH & Co.), and is the only Mack bobsled coaster still operating in the United States. It stands as the third of six Mack steel bobsleds built worldwide, following three years after Europa Park’s Schweizer Bobbahn, and just three months after Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Avalanche. As of 2010, there remain only nine bobsled coasters still in operation anywhere in the world, making this ride quite unique, especially in the USA.
The trains alone are quite different from trains experienced on any other type of ride. Each of the cars that make up the train is actually built in two halves, with a slight gap and hinge in between the front and back halves of the car to allow it to negotiate the tight, spiraling turns. With only a single lap bar, a low, almost lying-down position, and only one or two riders per car, there is ample leg-room for all and quite an unnerving feeling as you feel the cars flex during the ride due to the hinge. Originally opening with eight-car trains, they now have only seven cars per train, likely due to the difficulty of finding spare parts. The cars themselves are themed after Olympic bobsleds representing five countries: France, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, and Canada.
The ride experience starts off with a quick left-hand turn out of the station and into the 69 foot tall lift hill. Once the train reaches the top, the track levels out, and the train slowly begins to gain speed before the track banks to the left and into a wide, 540-degree downward helix. As the train passes the 360-degree mark, the turn widens and the train glides up a long, straight hill into a short brake run which scrubs off nearly no speed. After the brake run, the track banks left again, spiraling the train down through a half helix, before twisting the train to the right, then left again through two more turnarounds. For its finale, the train negotiates a figure eight style combination of helices, first breaking to the right and spiraling down under itself then spiraling back up in the opposite direction. Pulling out of the figure-eight helices, the left-hand turn widens and slows, and the trains fall against an inside rail as the train approaches the final brake run, ending the one-and-a-half minute, 3200-foot journey.
With its relatively small stature, low height requirement, and a top speed of only 41 mph, Avalanche is the perfect ride for the whole family, but don’t think for a second it’s just a kiddie ride. Its whipping banked turns will provide some thrills even for the biggest thrill seekers.
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