Zoar Inspires with its Authentic Canopy Tour Experience
About five years ago, I was hiking in New Hampshire and stumbled on a zip line on the summit of Gunstock Mountain. I watched for about 20 minutes as people came off the chair lift with a handful of gear—harnesses and helmets—and got into a single-file line.
One by one, they put their gear on and were clipped, via their harness and carabiners, onto a single cable. Once secured, they sped down the mountain in what I could clearly see was a straight shot from top to bottom. I was partly terrified by the pitch and long descent, and, also, aside from the view, which I can get free while hiking, I did not find the course interesting.
In my mind, I crossed zip lining off my bucket list.
Fast forward to this spring, when I began to do some writing for Bruce Lessels, the president of Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont. Rhyme Digital of Easthampton was helping Bruce to gain visibility online, and Bruce wanted me to add some PR into the mix.
As part of my work, I had the opportunity to observe a training in June of five new guides—who are now cleared to lead the canopy tour. From the moment I arrived at a platform near the top of Warfield Mountain to listen and learn, I have wanted to try the Zoar experience.
Zoar’s zip line does not follow a simple top-to-bottom course. It is intricate, unique and set entirely in the treetops, with 11 zip lines that connect to one another and to two sky bridges; participants must also rappel three times as part of the challenge of the experience.
It takes about three hours to complete the Zoar canopy tour. The whole time, guides offer visitors an education about the forest they’re in, its history and the trees they’re zipping through. It’s a complete experience that goes well beyond a simple adrenaline rush.
The training I observed was incredibly thorough and impressive; the trainers passed on knowledge about safety and technique, but they also educated the trainees in how to assess a visitor’s state of mind and how to be encouraging—without pushing too hard.
Zip lining became popular in countries such as Costa Rica and Jamaica, where it evolved as a way to study the otherwise inaccessible forest canopy. Around 2007, the first tours opened in the United States, and Zoar built its course in 2009, after Lessels and his family experienced a canopy tour in Chile while on vacation.
The Zoar experience follows the original model. I can’t think of it now as a zip line; it’s a canopy tour. When you zip with Zoar, you’ll ride up the mountain in a Polaris Ranger, and from the moment you begin to ascend the mountain, you’ll be under a heavy canopy of maple and beech trees.
Two guides will lead your tour, often with a group of six or eight other guests. One guide leads, moving to the next platform first; then the two guides together communicate with guests and lead them from one platform to the next, with one guide on the receiving end and the other sending visitors off.
The group’s movement from platform to platform allows guests to gather together, bond, discuss the experience and build relationships.
Zoar also models relationship-building in the way it partners with its staff. Each day, Zoar provides lunch for employees. The philosophy is that happy guides provide for happy guests.
In my mind, I have zipped easily from “I will never ride a zip line” to “I can’t wait to try Zoar’s canopy tour experience.”
The course is open through November for the 2018 season. I plan to get back there to check it out. I’ll tell you all about it, but I hope you go learn for yourself firsthand too!