Matthew Driskell has come up with a memorable sales pitch for his company’s customers as they fill out their paperwork.
“You bought a pen, so you get a free zipline (trip),” the Raven’s Rim Zip Line Adventure general manager tells a group of visitors from Arizona and Texas.
If that’s true, then the average $129 cost of each ballpoint pen is well worth the three-hour adventure that follows.
Moab’s only zipline tour company runs a six-line course that allows visitors to soar past colorful sandstone domes and red-rock fins high above the valley. But as Driskell points out, each trip offers much more than a quick thrill ride down steel cables at speeds topping 40 miles per hour.
After customers are strapped into their safety gear, they set off in Polaris or Kawasaki UTVs and head up a steep two-mile road on private property that Raven’s Rim leases from the family of the late Uranium King Charlie Steen.
The road takes visitors on a brief geological tour of the area’s renowned sandstone formations and past unusual desert wildflowers like prince’s plume, which is in full bloom this year, thanks to heavy rainfall in April and May.
The rains gave way to the hottest day of the year so far on Sunday, May 31, but temperatures inside one of the vehicles are comfortable.
“We’ve got our air conditioning going,” Driskell shouts as cool air rushes through his windshield-less UTV.
The road ends near the base of the first and shortest zipline called Sneak Peak. As its name suggests, the 280-foot line is designed to serve as an introduction to the sport, as well as the course that follows.
“You have a build-up with the shorter lines before you get to (the longer ones),” Driskell says.
Before anyone sets off down that first line, Raven’s Rim guides offer safety tips to anyone who is unfamiliar with the sport. Keep your legs up, they say, to avoid a rough landing at the other end.
“To be a true zip warrior, one must practice unwavering motivation, discipline and relentless enthusiasm,” guide Mike Broad says. “But we welcome zippers of all levels, from novices who are scared of heights to desert renegades.”
By and large, though, visitors don’t have much to worry about, aside from fear itself. The guides, who are trained and then recertified annually, strap each zipliner into and off the cables, and they operate a braking system that keeps anyone from zipping out of control.
“The guides are stopping you with their hands,” Driskell says.
On this particular tour, a few visitors cling tightly to the handlebars as they whoosh down Sneak Peak, with butterflies in their stomachs.
That’s a typical sensation during the trial run, and one that Driskell himself knows all too well.
“I kind of had the butterfly feeling the first time,” he says.
Moab resident Allen Siu, who joined the May 31 tour, attributes that feeling to the sense of anticipation.
“Like anything you do for the first time, you’d feel a little nervous – just a tad,” he says.
But as he continued down the course during his second-ever ziplining trip, Siu had no such apprehensions.
Knowing that his guides were looking out for his safety, Siu let loose and whooshed down the lines, hands-free. The experience, he says, was like nothing else he’s felt.
“It was like flying,” he says. “You feel really free and emancipated.”
Although he was likely rushing down the line at 40 miles per hour or more, Siu had no idea how fast he was actually going.
“I think that because you’re floating, you just can’t comprehend the speed, so it’s almost like tunnel vision,” he says. “It’s kind of like a wormhole, but you see the visuals around you, and it’s just so stimulating.”
As the trip continues, customers hike short sections of sandstone between lines; one stretch involves a walk across a 110-foot suspension bridge, and passes by a newly forming sandstone arch, as well as deep natural potholes that still contain mini-reservoirs of rainwater.
The ziplines that follow get longer and longer; two of them run nearly a quarter mile from end to end.
“This is where the tigers come to show off their stripes,” Broad says, generally speaking.
By this point, many of his first-time customers are feeling more comfortable with each launch; their trip descriptions go from “OK” to “good” to “awesome!”
Broad says he always appreciates the chance to watch someone go from apprehensive to gung-ho in such a short span of time.
“It’s more meaningful when people overcome their fear,” he says. “That’s when it’s more fun to guide, for me.”
Raven’s Rim offers family-friendly adventures
“To be a true zip warrior, one must practice unwavering motivation, discipline and relentless enthusiasm … But we welcome zippers of all levels, from novices who are scared of heights to desert renegades.”
For more information, go to www.ravensrim.com, or call 435-260-0973
When: Tours at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day; 6 p.m. tours and other times may also be available
Where: 998 N. Main St. (North U.S. Highway 191)
Cost: $129 per person 16 years or older; $99 for children between the ages of 9 and 15; pregnant women and children under 70 pounds are not allowed