Defy gravity and vertigo in the river valley at Alberta’s first aerial park
In a wooded oasis just off the Whitemud, an unusual tower barely pokes through the canopy, no doubt missed by the thousands of commuters who drive by it every day. And in a way, that overlooked protrusion is symptomatic that Snow Valley Aerial Park might still be one of the city’s best kept secrets. The adventure park and ropes course gives the vertically inclined a chance to test their climbing skills—and challenge their fear of heights—in a beautiful river valley setting.
Surrounding the park’s 50 foot-high tower are some 100 elements, or “games” as staff call them, that taken together sort of resemble a supersized playground. These games lean heavily toward the acrobatic, though. Imagine tire tubes, rope ladders, steps and lines suspended in the air, which participants use to move from one elevated platform to another. Besides dealing with gravity, participants also need to rely on their strength, agility and imagination to complete each game.
Like the runs on the nearby ski hill, the games are colour coded: green means easy, blue intermediate and black hard. They’re also arranged at different heights and typically increase in difficulty with elevation. Aerial park manager Ben Evoy describes the games as “challenge by choice,” meaning there’s no set route one must follow. “You’re not forced to do anything you don’t want to do,” he says, before joking, “unless you’re with a bunch of friends who peer pressure you.”
Adding to the fun is the variety of elements, including a few custom-made for the park. As the park is operated by the same not-for-profit organization that manages Snow Valley Ski Club and the Rainbow Valley campground, many of these fit a ski or outdoors theme. One game is made up of a horizontal rope ladder affixed with slalom gates. Another, near the very top, features a canoe that you step in and out of; oars hanging above the canoe provide something to grasp onto with your hands. All while doing your best not to look down, of course.
While aerial parks like this one aren’t new—they’re already well established in Europe and Asia—the concept is just starting to take hold in Canada, with most parks based in B.C. and Ontario. “We’re the only one in Alberta,” Evoy says.
The park’s centrepiece KT90 Tower is also unique, being the first of its kind in Canada and only the third in North America. The patio topping the tower features great views of the surroundings and is a choice locale for alcohol tastings on summer evenings.
As for the games, naturally it’s all perfectly safe. While taking a wrong step technically means falling off an element, one doesn’t fall far. All participants wear a harness and a specialized lanyard with two connectors, at least one of which is always attached to a cable. Before every adventure, participants attend a short “ground school” showing them how to use the system to navigate the park and its network of safety cables. Additionally, all staff are certified rope course practitioners, at the ready if someone gets unnerved while mid-air.
“It’s just as safe as any regular playground,” Evoy says. “There’s just the bumps and scrapes that happen to anybody when they’re having too much fun.” t8n
In June, Snow Valley patrons will be further preoccupied with the addition of some new attractions on the premises. One is a sluice dubbed the Whitemud Creek Mining Company where kids will be able to extract gold nuggets from the earth via the lost art of gold-panning. And for duffers, a target golf site with a dozen tee-off boxes will be up and running. On top of all that, two new play areas are slated to open.
The minimum height is 125 cm (four feet, one inch). The ground-level Kids Course is for those between 125 cm and 140 cm (four feet, seven inches) and can get full tower access only if accompanied by a chaperone taller than 140 cm and at least 14 years of age. For admission, only bookings online at snowvalley.ca/aerial-park will be accepted; no walk-ups.
Individuals 125–140 cm:
$34 (Fri.–Sun. & holidays)
Individuals 140 cm & taller:
$42 (Fri.–Sun. & holidays)
Twilight All Heights:
$34 (Fri.–Sun. & holidays)
13204 Rainbow Valley Road, Edmonton 780-434-3991