Parabolic isn’t a word I really
appreciated until recently. Since then, I have learnt how it can change
a good ride into an incredible ride, a fun drop into a frenzy of airtime
and a so-so opinion into standing ovation – literally.
Subconsciously, none of the 2001
European coasters opening interested me. Perhaps I haven’t had time to
trawl the almost infinite realms of the internet for construction
reports, pictures and information, perhaps I am just waiting for
coasters to open before I get excited.
It wasn’t until the ride
reports of these rides started filling my inbox that I felt obliged to
find out more, specifically of Thunder Coaster, Tusenfryds’ largest
investment so far.
The second drop is something of a
contemporary phenomenon, which brings us back to the word ‘parabolic’.
Instead of the drop sharply turning downward into an equally angled
drop, it takes the path of natural descent following the direction the
train would fall if there were no track.
This caused a lot of excitement;
it means airtime, after all. When people talk of Thunder Coaster, you
would probably hear nothing of the ride other than drop two. It would be
interesting to see how one drop, however good, could make the ride
so many peoples’ top-ten lists.
Thunder Coaster is beautiful. The mottled mix of sweeping turns envelope the towering peaks of the lift-hill and infamous second drop as the whole ride straddles the rocky hillside on which it is built. The pathway wraps around the ride, as it undulates up- and- over the dramatic landscape, dotted intermittently with evergreen trees, lumps of rock and grassy knolls.
The queue takes you into the
centre of the first drop as it spirals around you before you're under
the lift and into the heart of the ride. Many wooden coasters don’t
offer an opportunity to those snap-happy enthusiasts, Thunder Coaster
can keep you happy for hours.
Like the majority of buildings in
Norway, the station is a flamboyant concoction of wooden architectural
styles, open on the side with a wooden slat roof covering the station
The comfortable seats are
surprisingly wide and incredibly snug. With the amount of legroom given
to you, you may be surprised that someone doesn’t come along and offer
you peanuts and warm towels.
The green and red trains are four
cars long, each seating six riders. Each car is fronted by a black
railing, a refreshing change from the normal boxed front. Although
looking sympathetically apt for a wooden coaster, they still look sleek
and new – a clever balance that Vekoma have just right.
Once you pull down this bar and
it is checked, the train smoothly advances out of the station before
engaging on the lift-hill. The lift is like most modern wooden coasters
– contentedly fast, reasonably quiet.
The view is great, though. To
your left, the sweeping first drop and the dramatic landscaping of the
park. Yet, to your right, the majority of the ride, dipping, turning and
intertwining almost endlessly.
As you sweep past the rocky
landscape below, you burst through the structure of the lift hill,
climbing sharply as you do. As you head towards the sky the track
sharply levels out before dropping.
As you rise from your seat, the
track gets steeper and steeper still. As you turn towards the ground,
the train is pulled from under you. You continue to levitate from your
bench, your thighs hit the lap-bar, your toes curl in fear as you wonder
just how much steeper, faster and intense this drop will get.
A final lurch sends you further
skywards towards an overhead stretch of track crossing, before you are
pulled back into your seat as the train levels out and sweeps around a
180-degree right-hand turn.
In one of the fastest stretches
of track I have ever known on a wooden coaster you absolutely pelt it
round into a skyward climb up into a double bunny-hop, the second jump
of which throws you over the lift-hill.
Another dramatic turn sends you
towards the lift-hill structure, pulling you down in another frenzied
moment of airtime sending you airborne towards the overhead wooden
From here, the track turns once
more to the right banking outrageously to your right, sweeping into
another head-chopping drop under the return track from the second drop
and into a rather Megafobia’esque 180-degree turn, undulating
dramatically as it does.
From here, you drop twice more in
a rally of bunny hops, before listing to the left and hitting another
turn, heading you back towards the brake run. After another drop, a
camera catches your surprise as you are once again pulled away from
overhead structure as you climb into the sharp final
As the train rolls slowly around
the 180-degree turn back into the station, the ride may now be under
control, but your mind remains in overdrive. The ride is simply superb.
The bars spring up out of your
way and you run down the ramp and past the photo booth. As people wipe
tears from their eyes, as people clap their hands in astonishment and as
people jump around like panicked rabbits, you soon realise that we’re
not the only ones who love wooden roller coasters.
The first drop was a surprise.
The intense laterals are unique and as soon as the train is travelling
fast enough, you are bodily hurled through the lift structure into the
As soon as you think it has got
to its’ steepest, it gets steeper. As you rise from your seat, before
you have a chance to recover, you continue to be pulled from your seat
with spectacularly powerful negative forces.
The ride exceeds not only the
expectations of the new rider, but also of the designer, Robert Casey.
On paper, the ride is down to last a minimum of 55 seconds. Even before
it officially opened, it was happily doing 54, sometimes 52. Although a
second here-and-there may perhaps appear to be insubstantial, with the
ride going that much faster over drops designed for slower speeds, you
can be assured of a good ride.
For the first time since Tonnerre
De Zeus, Thunder Coaster has got the fine balance of airtime and
laterals just right. Also well balanced, the ride is smooth enough to
give a potent and forceful ride, but throws you about enough to remind
you that you’re on a wooden coaster.
There is very little wrong with
the ride. A helix would have been nice, but that said, the
offerings of lateral forces more than
make up for this. A wooden coaster
is a very hard thing to pull off well, especially modern ones. Thunder
Coaster has a character of its’ own, a great selection of elements and
perhaps the most outrageous dose of airtime safely possible on a roller
It had a lot to live up to. And
Here is our bullet point review of this attraction, highlighting everything that is great about it, and everything that is sadly bad.