Friday, June 1, 2012

Skyrushing at Hersheypark - A Look at One of 2012's Best New Coasters

Skyrush.  Hersheypark's new coaster, an Intamin design, and one that's had coaster fans across the globe drooling since it was announced last year.  The ride is tall, the ride is fast.  It features a new style of trains, and does not have loops.  The facts of Skyrush seem innocent enough, really there's plenty of hyper coasters out there that give gentle moments of floating out of your seat and the wind blowing through your hair.  If that's the style of fun you're looking for while in line for Skyrush, well, watch out.

Okay that was a bit dramatic, but I would easily describe Skyrush as a dramatic ride.  If a ride could be a drama queen, then that is what this would be, complete with screaming tantrums and even a thrown cell phone or two.  (oh and that literally does happen, so that fits really well!)  The coaster is intense, really very intense.  Did I mention it was intense?

Hersheypark's Comet Hollow, seemingly now just known as The Hollow per some new signs in the section, has forever been changed.  While the Comet is a great ride, I can see why the park was ready to take emphasis off of it, with Skyrush towering over everything.

Skyrush literally wraps around the Comet, which meant some alterations to the older coaster's queue were in order.  The queue is no longer covered, and the ramp up to the station thankfully is much more open now.

Skyrush's station offers bathrooms on the lower level, and the ride loading area upstairs.  The nice clock tower holds the elevator for guests to access the station.  It's all crammed into a small space, but the renovated midway includes plenty of planters and trees, and overall looks quite nice.

But I didn't make the trip to chocolate town U.S.A. to see new trees, I came to ride Skyrush.

The coaster has winged seats, where the four-across trains have a seat on either side where nothing is not below your feet, allowing them to dangle freely.  After the train dispatches it moves at an expected rate for a couple seconds, then rockets upward.  Like Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion, the lift hill portion of Skyrush is almost shockingly short.

And as an added bonus, seats in the front of the train have some nice floating air-time as the train crests the hill, due to the sharp angle of the transition.  That is the only gentle air-time found anywhere on Skyrush.

The first drop is a doozy, as expected.  If you're in the front the gentle air-time abruptly turns into a full float as the train descends, and if you're near the back you'll be out of your seat before you realize you're even nearing the top of the lift.  There is no time at all to admire the lovely view from 200 feet in the air, but I can deal with that.

Aside from this photo, I really do not remember much of the turn that takes place at the bottom of the first drop.  The train dives and curves right, flying past these cool looking rock walls in a path that's been carved out of stone.  I'd like to remember more but each time I rode the shock of the air-time and intensity of the first drop left me trying to compute just what the heck was going on.

And then it happens.  The train heads up the second tallest hill on the coaster, which isn't tall at all, really, and every rider suddenly become best friends with their lap bar.  I mentioned the hyper coasters and their "ooh" and "ahhh" moments of floating because this is the polar opposite of that.  The train screams across the hill, and riders feel just what physics are capable of as their bodies try to go one way while the train heads another.

There's a girl in the fourth row in this photo, and her hair should tell you all you need to know about the type of air-time you feel on Skyrush.  The riders with their hands up are either braver than I am, or fools.  I'm not sure which, but I do know that if they happened to have any loose articles in their pockets they're long gone at this point.

The air-time hill is following by a low sweeping curve that I did go a little fuzzy gray in the head during, and then up into another hill that gives the same experience as the first.  Another low curve and the train hits the 'Stengel Dive,' a demented element named after the famous coaster designed Werner Stengel.

Wikipedia has nicely defined the Stengel Dive as when "the train first goes up a regular camelback hill, then quickly tilts beyond 90 degrees at the very top."  Well that is indeed what the train does, rising up and suddenly sharply banking to the right, then diving back down.  It's an interesting feeling, much like an inversion but then not quite so.

The furthest out low dive along the creek below is next, which I enjoyed the most simply due to the fact that by that point in the ride I had gained some sense back and was able to interpret what was going on.  It's low, it's fast, and it leads to the next wild element, which is one that many Intamin rides feature.

The S-curve is named as such because it looks like an S from above, but it features a combination of quick direction change from left to right, with an equally quick switch from up to down.  Yes, that sounds a bit confusing but know this, you're not only kissing your lap bar from the air-time but also shifting from side to side during it, and it's by far the most extreme version of the element that I've encountered.

Sadly I missed out on getting a nice shot of the hill that comes next, which is a wonderfully traditional air-time hill, without any crazy twisting or inverting.  Due to the speed of the train and the small size of the hill, however, it does give a moment that could be described as some of the most insane air-time around.

As if the train never lost even one mile an hour of speed it the curves left, heading over the Comet and up into the brake run.  As the train slows you realize you're now over the Comet's station, which is a bit of a neat contrast between the old and new.

One final curve and the train hits the final brakes before the station.  Taking a look at the riders in this photo, I think they enjoyed Skyrush.  Just a hunch.

There's a lot of talk going on right now about the restraint system used on the ride.  Here is a photo of the test seat at the entrance, as an example.  The lap restraint does come quite firmly down during the ride, such that while on the brake run waiting for the other train to dispatch it can be a bit of a drag.  If this is the price to pay for a safe restraint during the insane air-time that the ride gives, then I'll sign up for that any day, anytime.

While in line for the coaster I did some dispatch timing, and clocked 8 continuous dispatches.  The average time was 2 minutes and 47 seconds, with the shortest being 2 minutes 7 seconds, and the longest 3 minutes and 58 seconds.

At that average, the ride is doing 21.5 dispatches an hour, with 32 riders for a total of 686 riders per hour.  Your mileage may vary.

A big, no huge, part of this lower than expected capacity is the fact that guests load and unload (and pick up their belongings) on the same side of the station.  It's a pretty sad thing watching attendants just stand there waiting for guests to find their bag, not able to load new guests, or do anything really, but I'm not sure how much can be done to remedy that at this point in the game.

If you're visiting Hersheypark to ride Skyrush, and you should, here is a hint, don't rush to Skyrush in the morning.  Instead, let everyone get their first ride, after which many of them head to the waterpark.  On my visit shortly after opening Skyrush had an hour wait, and by 1 pm it was ten minutes.

I don't often write real reviews of rides, instead I usually focus on a more factual take on new attractions.  However, Skyrush really was just that good so I had to break the mold.  I will be quite interested to see how the reviews progress as the Summer goes on, and how many fans' top ten lists will change once they take a spin.

In the meantime, go to Hersheypark and see for yourself!

Here's a short video I threw together of Skyrush in action.  And don't even ask, I did not speed up the video at all!  


Surya said...

Damn, this sounds like pure awesomeness from Intamin again! Too bad I went to Hershey last year, I'll have to wait a couple more years to get there again. Hopefully they'll have added even more of this kind of goodness by then :)