Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sweden Tour

Continuing my week of theme park visiting I spent a few days visiting Sweden with the European Coaster Club taking in 4 parks; the city parks of Gothenburg and Stockholm and two located between them. This report is a write up of that.

This park is located in the centre of Gothenburg and is an amazing city park with attractions and entertainment to keep all generations and coaster riders happy.

Rabalder is a recent addition to the park replacing a childrens coaster with one that's a little bit bigger and a little more fun to ride. Being the smallest coaster in the park we got it out of the way and the park had very kindly given us the opportunity to ride this before opening the public as a general introduction to the welcome.

Lisebergbahn is a large terrain coaster situated on the hill within the park. This ride is approaching 25 years of age, usually a sign that it's going to be rough. However the park has maintained the ride superbly and it still runs extremely well. We got to ride this for a full hour and choosing a seat in the middle meant that I didn't have to leave my seat (there's a lot of interest from others in riding in the front and back)

If a worst coaster had to be chosen from those in the park then unfortunately it would be Kanonen. It's an amazing use of space compressing a lot of track into a small footprint, but with that comes some pretty violent transitions and a stupidly slow inline twist that serves to provide bruised shoulders as a souvenir to those who ride it.

A year or so ago the park the replaced an observation tower with a stupidly high drop ride. Called "Atmos Fear" this ride was providing mixed responses with some deeming it too slow and braking too soon and others saying it was great. Watching the reactions of those riding gave the impression of the latter and perhaps I was fortunate but every time I rode it we dropped very quickly indeed and the ride was great!

The final ride of the day was on their exemplary coaster Balder. I've had mixed experiences on this with some new wheels causing the ride to crawl on the last trip in 2007. Those wheels had now bedded in and the ride had returned back to it's former glory. Despite a slight degradation of smoothness on some of the turns the ride is just as good as when I first rode it eight years ago with ridiculous airtime on every hill.

Our itinerary had us returning to Liseberg in a few days time and as I'd been here before it was a very relaxed day for me, especially given the travelling I'd been subjecting myself in the days leading up to the trip. So more on Liseberg later.

Kolmårdens Djurpark

This is a fairly new park for the coaster hunters as they only added one in 2009. The park is a huge animal and safari park that takes quite some time to cover and in places is pretty steep too. So bring a good pair of walking shoes.

Safari Parks are notorious for becoming nothing more than a traffic jam surrounded by animals where drivers run the risk of getting perhaps a little too close to the animals than liked. This park took the novel of idea of leaving the cars in the car park and using a cable car system to take you around the animals instead. The upshot is a lot more stress-free for all. The car at it's lowest point is just 2 metres above the ground and that's in the lion enclosure getting you very close to the animals indeed. However like in Hollywood where you should never work with animals you still run the risk of them not playing ball and on our ride the lions were seeking refuge away from the cable car route.

Away from the safari park there are a large number of spacious enclosures for the animals to wander and bask in the sun. I'm usually not a fan of seeing animals in any sort of captivity but they all seemed very content here however there was one snow leopard doing the pacing back-and-forth thing, which is usually a sign that something isn't right but that was the exception.

The roller coaster is called Delfinexpressen and is a rollerskater ride that was good for a couple of goes but not much else. It looks like the park has been testing the waters with some rides and if rumours are to be believed will be getting some more including which could put it on the map in the same way Balder did for Liseberg.

For those wishing to escape into the shade then the dolphin show was the best place. I'd never been in a fully indoor show before and credit to this park for putting together an excellent show with the obligatory dolphin tricks and a couple of new ones all put together with some great production.

This is the city park of Stockholm and is quite simply one of the best parks in the world. With a decent selection of rides, all run extremely well and very friendly park staff and locals I love visiting this park. Following a welcome from the park we were let loose for an afternoon and evening of coaster riding.

First up was the new kiddy coaster which can be found just inside the main entrance. Called Tuff Tuff Taget this was just a simple series of hairpins that brought you back into the station. Fortunately we were only sent around for two laps so the embarrassment factor was kept low.

Insane is a Zacspin coaster which for those who don't know is one where you move on a single plane but the cars are free to rotate forwards and backwards (and over and over) as they negotiate the twisting course. I'd ridden one of these before in Finland but that was the smallest model in the range. This was the next size up and completely lived up to its name with proper physical forces not helped by our car choosing to do a lot of the circuit upside down.

Blu Taget (Blue Train) is the park's signature dark ride and had been rebuilt and moved slightly to make way for another ride. In reconstructing the ride the park had taken the opportunity to bring it up to date with a new track and a high-tech car with effects built within it. This was a lot of fun and a step-change in the enjoyment offered compared to it's earlier incarnation, which was still great.

Vilda Musen and Jetline are two rollercoasters that are entwined within each other in an amazing display of making the most of your land. Vilda Musen was not too bad, the queue line was cramped but processed very quickly but the Jetline was excellent and the ride we spent most of the evening riding. This part of the park had been given a new 50's theme which looked amazing.

Once the park was closed and the masses out of the way we were allowed to ride Twister, the park's new wooden coaster for an hour, ending at midnight. This coaster lives up to its name and is an amazing feat of construction worthy of getting it's own documentary on the Discovery Channel. However I didn't like the ride much at all. In trying to squeeze so much in the pacing of the ride was all over the place and bar the final section lost me, this wasn't helped by us riding it in the dark. The new trains were also a little high on the sides which caused my spine and shoulders a little discomfort. Despite my negativity the ride was extremely popular and liked by everyone else and earlier in the day had been an absolutely huge draw to the public. Another slight disappointment is that unless you're prepared to exploit the parks good nature and sneak a camera onto some of the other rides, the coaster isn't easy to photograph.

The following morning we were given a tour around the park before being given a number of rides to play on for an hour. The Zacspin was put to the test by intentionally running the car with unbalanced cars. Doing this ensured more violent g-forces and flips than you'd get usually. It was funny seeing the park staff and engineers walking past the session looking up and shaking their heads in disbelief.

The big draw however was Jetline which like Lisebergbahn was the older ride but still showing the newer ones how to do things, running incredibly well. Even at the start of the day when coasters are slow this was still flying around the track.

Today was proving to be a bit busier than the day before and as queues were quick to build up. Taking advantage of already being in the park we got first rides on Twister. In the daytime where the track could be read the ride was a more bearable than in the pitch black darkness of the night before.

With the time remaining we took the opportunity to just relax and enjoy the ambience of the park at what turned out to be the busiest day for the year, by quite some margin. Estimates were in the region of 25,000 people. It should be noted that the park was still able to move people through the rides efficiently even with the numbers. Other parks could learn so much from seeing the operations in this park.

Skara Sommarland

Heading back to Liseberg we stopped off at Skara Sommarland, a park which up to 2 years ago offered very little until that was they added the prototype of the Free Fly coaster, which they've called Tranan.

This coaster is a suspended coaster where the car can rotate and turn upside down but the seats don't invert because they're hung out to the sides rather than being above or below the track. The seats are quite exposed and the single belt restraint leaving the riding to be a little precarious, and genuinely fun as a result. I've major doubts whether parks in the UK or US would allow the ride to exist in such a way, and I guess this is why there aren't many parks rushing to buy what is a great ride. Overheads would kill this ride, it's not named Free Fly for nothing. It's also worth noting that there are 2 distinct ride experiences given by this ride depending on the side you ride on. One seemed more gentler than the other.

As well as Tranan the park has 2 other rollercoasters. Gruvbanan is a lengthy powered mine train, the kind of which is commonplace throughout the world.

The other was a very recent addition being opened to the public just 2 days before we got there. This ride called Spinner used to exist at Centr0 Park in Germany prior to it being closed. One of the club members had been helping getting the ride ready for us. Thank you Matts for getting it done on time :)

As well as the ride, the park is home to a huge waterpark and given the temperatures today had attracted a decent crowd. This was a pretty neat water park with a bowl shaped landscape giving perfect terrain onto which to build the slides, keeping them low to the ground and therefore costs down.

The rest of the day was spent dicking about in the park enjoying the rides and spending a good amount of time watching people failing miserably to water ski. We also went back and rode Tranan a lot more, much to the ride ops surprise. They really do have a winner here!

I liked Skara Sommarland, it offered us a perfect break from the hectic pace of the preceding days and as with all the other parks on the trip allowed people to have fun and didn't bog them down with silly rules and protocols.

Back to Liseberg
We returned to Liseberg for a day and a half for three reasons. Firstly to enjoy the park for one more time, secondly for an exclusive ride session on Kanonen and also to finish the trip with a midnight ride session on Balder. So not wanting to repeat myself here's some random pictures of the park.

The Kanonen session on paper sounded like being a real nightmare. I don't think the ride has many fans especially given the great wooden coaster next door and the idea of riding non-stop for an hour would have been a physical test most of us would have walked away from, which isn't nice for the park. As it turns out it ended up being a lot of fun on account of us requesting being given deliberate rollbacks where we were launched too slow to make it over the first hill and the park staff being more than willing to oblige. It also gave them an opportunity to test their rollback processes on an audience that isn't going to panic or get distressed, in fact we were the complete opposite, with one of the loudest cheers going up when it happened.

As for the Balder session, I didn't take any photos as I was too busy having what has to be one of the funniest ride sessions ever. Again riding in the middle I was able to remain in my seat for the duration of the 75 minutes we were given. I was on the first train and on the last and managed, we think, 20 rides on the coaster. Everyone was cheering and laughing so hard at how manic this ride is at night that I lost my voice, much to the amusement of others. But it was all for a good cause. It didn't matter how tired or exhausted we may have been or how damaged from the heat some of us were but we all came off that ride laughing and with memories that we'll carry for a long long time.

Aspedalen Fair

A bonus for a small number of us on the trip. On the drive back to Liseberg we spotted a small fair set up beside the road and with a bit of spare time on the last day and someone willing to drive us back (Thankyou Mette), we found ourselves at a small fair run by a Norwegian company who'd crossed over the border.

In amongst the rides was a small powered coaster. Yay! Credit-whoring at it's best!

I knew what I was going to be getting in Sweden. Amazingly run parks, amazingly friendly people, expensive drinks, great food, some superb rollercoasters, and that's what I got. Along with some great company providing laughs along the way this little trip has probably upped the ante that other trips are going to have a tough job beating.

Thanks to all those who helped make the trip happen. You know who you are!

Post a Comment

Film #68: Jurassic World

I didn't see the last Jurassic World film but I did play the Lego game of it, so I was familiar with the backstory to this one. In th...