hamster-ball

The Human Hamster Wheel, or Aqua Roller if you prefer, is one of the more original features at Skibowl in summer.

Human hamster wheels? Got 'em.

Tarzan swing? Check.

Mini race cars? Yep.

Rickety tree bridges? Check.

Batting cages? Smack.

Bungee Trampolines? Oh yeah.

Skibowl's summer offerings get more varied every year, and the latest additions run the gamut. The zip lines and bungee jumps at Skibowl East have some fresh competition in the most fun and/or terrifying category, with a new "Tree Top Action Cone" complete with a Tarzan Swing, a Tarzan Plunge and a Hang on for Dear Life on the Rickety Bridges feature. It's all just uphill from the new Malibu cars,  the new bungee trampolines that send you up for some serious air time, the batting cages for your Big Papi impersonations and a new Aqua Roller pond for getting your hamster on.

I got to sample all of the above and more the other day thanks to a Free Media day that had the place crawling with TV personalities, reporters and their family members. It was overcast and cool with enough moisture to keep the Alpine Slide on hold at Skibowl West for a while, but there was plenty to do at Skibowl East. I was with my wife Christina and our 10-year-old daughter Melina, and our Action Passes covered everything from mini-golf to rock-wall-climbing to bungee-jumping.

We started out with the Aqua Rollers, drawn by the psychedelic colors and the sheer weirdness of attempting to imitate a hamster on a wheel.

One thing to watch out for next time: The hamster hole you use to enter the roller also allows you to fall out into the water. Melina discovered this with a splash, but fortunately she is 10. Ask a soaking wet 10-year-old if she is cold, and you know the answer will be no.

We figured that the best way to dry Melina out was by airing her out with a nice, long zip-line ride, followed by a free-fall down from a 100-foot bungee tower.

 As you can see, she got some major slingshot action on the ride back up. She made the 80-pound minimum weight limit by all of three pounds, so when she got flung she really flew.

I was proud of Melina for having the guts to jump off that platform because it definitely scared me. Christina on the other hand, wasn't the least bit worried. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

From there we tried out the climbing wall, the bungee trampolines, some forest mini-golf and the Malibu cars. The cars were a blast because it was Melina's first time ever driving, and she figured it out no problem. Like ski racing, you just need to find your line, hold it and let it rip.

I also had a blast in the batting cages, reliving my Little League glory years with a couple of shots that no doubt would have sailed well over 400 feet were it not for the nets. At least that's the way I saw it in my imagination. A sharp jammer off the hands stung me back to reality with a throbbing palm.

We never did make it onto the most recent attraction, the "Tree Top Action Zone," with its five-story "Tarzan Freefall Swing" and six-story "Tarzan Plunge." To get to the swing and/or plunge, you have to cross a series of balance bridges that become progressively more challenging.

Photo courtesy of Skibowl

It was just the second day of that feature being open to the public, and the lines got backed up - maybe because the bridge crossings were trickier than guests were expecting. 

The Treetop Zone was designed by a Tigard-based company called Synergo that specializes in "challenge courses" to "empower youth and adults to empower themselves" by conquering stressful situations together. Unfortunately we never got to experience them, but I heard nothing but positive reviews about the Tree Top features from people who tried them.

There was a pretty solid crowd up enjoying Skibowl for the day, and crowds have been fairly steady for the summer, which is good news for the resort and its 100-plus summer employees. Skibowl has been running its Adventure Park during the summer months since 1987, and it has grown into a vital part of the resort's business.

"Summer isn't at the level of winter for us," says Skibowl spokesman Hans Wipper, "but it enables us to keep our key employees on year-round, and keep some cash flow coming in. It also helps to offset when we have a low snow year like we did last winter."

The Tarzan Freefall Swing and Plunge can be added to an all-day Action Pass for $15, or added to any Adventure Pass for $20 each activity. There is also a new, all-inclusive “Extreme Pass” that includes every attraction available, including the “Tree Top Action Zone” for $109.For a complete list of Skibowl’s Adventure Park pricing and restrictions, click here.

Operating hours for the Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl are: Monday-Thursday 11-6, Friday 11-7 and Saturday and Sunday 10-7. The Adventure Park operates seven days a week through Labor Day, then weekends in September.