Let the coasting begin: Timber Twister opens to rave reviews

About 100 people showed up Thursday morning for a ceremony to mark the opening of Spirit Mountain's newest attraction: the Timber Twister mountain coaster.

On the Timber Twister
Bob King /

About 100 people showed up Thursday morning for a ceremony to mark the opening of Spirit Mountain's newest attraction: the Timber Twister mountain coaster.

"This is an incredibly exciting day for Spirit Mountain," said Renee Mattson, executive director of the alpine recreation area. She noted that the $2.3 million ride sped from concept to reality in about one year.

Mayor Don Ness praised Mattson's leadership in helping to turn around Spirit Mountain. Ness recalled that, while he served on the City Council, there were times when Spirit Mountain's future looked uncertain. Now, he said, the recreational area appears to be on much firmer footing -- thanks to renewed investments not only in the Timber Twister but also in the ski chalet and the lift system.

"This is a step in the right direction to make this a year-round facility," Ness said Thursday, observing that the area has much untapped potential.

Mattson said she suspects the new coaster will be enough of a draw to bring summer traffic to Spirit Mountain this year, but she said the long-term plan is to bring additional summertime attractions into the mix.


"We recognize the need to bring in more components to make Spirit Mountain more of an all-season destination," Mattson said.

Ryan Abel was part of a construction crew that worked 12-hour days for more than two straight months to get the ride up and running.

"It was an intense push that was very draining," he said. "We worked nonstop from morning until night."

Mike Carlson said the project benefited from warm and dry weather early on but encountered a muddy "June monsoon."

The top part of the coaster takes riders through a forest of maples and oaks. Then the elevated track crosses over a rise, offering a view of the St. Louis River valley, before diving into a series of quick twists amid aspens. At the end of the run, riders remain in their carts as they're mechanically pulled back to the top of the mountain.

The ride received mostly rave reviews Thursday.

When asked to rate the coaster on a scale of 1 to 10, Leevi Honkanen, 12, of Poplar said: "I'd give it a 10, big time. That's the most fun I've had in a long time."

His favorite part was the quick turns toward the bottom of the run.


John Hynes of Pike Lake took his 4-year-old son, Henry, on the coaster Thursday morning. He said that one of the nice things about the ride is that you can adjust the speed to your comfort level, thanks to a brake system, making it a good fit for parents with young ones not yet ready to ride on their own.

"I felt like I had good control," Hynes said.

His cautious first ride wasn't just for Henry's benefit.

"I took it a little slow at first, because I'm a little timid about heights," Hynes said.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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