Inspecting the largest zipline in BC
It’s known currently as the largest zipline in British Columbia: Ziptrek's Zipline 11, the Sasquatch. The line is 2.085 km long, passing the previous record holder, Superfly’s Zoom2 line which is 1.23905 km in length. According to ZipTrek Ecotours, the company that operates the Sasquatch, it also holds the honour of being the longest zipline in all of North America.
Given the impressive length, it’s not a stretch (pun intended) that inspecting such a line can be an extensive (pun also intended) task for Technical Safety BC safety officers.
As the launch and landing stations are on two different mountains, it takes roughly 40 minutes to access both points. The launch station is located 8 km up a radio controlled road while the landing station is 2 km across the valley and 3.5 km up a radio controlled mountain road. Technical Safety BC vehicles must have mountain radios and drivers must be certified to drive on these roads.
Unique challenges with such a large line includes communication between operators in different landing areas as oftentimes there is no line of sight visible between the two platforms. Understanding when to send riders and developing a comprehensive, fail-safe communications system is a must to prevent riders from being launched too soon, risking run-in with the previous rider. To prevent these accidents, Ziptrek’s Sasquatch line, along with other zipline companies, uses a latched gate method, where the loading area can only be opened by the operator through a wireless signal system.
The Sasquatch’s braking system is based on the type of brakes used on other lines operated by Ziptrek Ecotours. The Sasquatch is designed so that riders slow to 20-25 km/h from top speeds of 100 km/h before the braking system is engaged. During the inspection, confirming the primary brakes also warrants checking the secondary brake system that is triggered when the primary braking method is over extended.
As for the line itself, the Sasquatch line has a more complex tensioning system, similar to those found on larger ziplines, which can only be fixed by a hydraulic winch allowing for adjustability of the line tension.
Finally, an aircraft warning line is needed to meet Transport Canada’s requirements, as the line is over 100 meters above the ground. Markings that warn aircrafts need to be considered where structures, such as this zipline, may interfere with aviation traffic. Unmarked lines are dangerous to aircrafts and many times are completely invisible to pilots.
A typical inspection by Technical Safety BC also includes a review of design documentation, the zipline’s history, and ZipTrek’s inspection policies and procedures. The safety officer assesses operational procedures, including recovery and rescue plans, and performs visual inspections of the zipline structures. Acceptance test data must be verified before the safety officer moves on.