HADES, AVALANCHE, & MORE... got quality wood on an impromptu trip to Wisconsin Dells

Associated parks:
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Monday, June 20, 2005 8:06 AM
I woke up around noon on Saturday, June 18th… somewhat groggy and still a little buzzed from the after-hours cocktails I shared with the bartenders following my regular Friday DJ gig. I had been considering driving up to Wisconsin Dells from Chicago for several weeks. The photos and trip reports I had seen online about Hades at Mt. Olympus Theme Park were simply extraordinary. After a quick shower and a few cups of coffee, I was determined to make my way up to the Dells from Chicago for at least one lap on this majestic looking ride. I phoned a few friends in an attempt to find someone to join me for the adventure, but no one seemed to be as spontaneous as I on this sunny and pleasant afternoon.

My buddy Jim (who I have surprisingly reconnected with via Coasterbuzz after 7 or 8 years) was already at the Dells with several other coaster enthusiasts, so I knew that I wouldn’t be completely alone for my journey. I finally arrived around 5:30pm. The coaster was even more impressive in person than I had imagined. I parked right in front of the giant drop into the massive tunnel, left Jim a quick message on his cel, purchased my $32 unlimited ride wristband, and headed straight for Hades. After about 10 minutes in the Queue, I got a message from Jim telling me to meet up with him and the rest of the group at their hotel room after getting my first ride in.

HADES -

The entire queue time was about 30 minutes. The staff was oddly subdued and detached from the entire experience. No vocal interaction with the crowd. No announcements. Nothing. Considering how popular the ride was, I was surprised to see only one woman operating the ride and checking restraints while another half-heartedly supervised the turnstile at the station entrance. Their zombie like attitude kind of gave the entire experience an appropriate creepiness, although I doubt it was intentional.

My first, and unfortunately, only ride (more on that later) was in the very back seat. The drop out of the station and the sequence of little airtime hills and twists that lead up to the lift hill took me completely by surprise. I’ve heard that this section of the coaster isn’t nearly as dramatic in front, so I’d definitely suggest giving the back car a go. It’s wild.

The lift was magnificent, offering a tremendous view of the park and surrounding area. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about the drop into the tunnel, as I had no idea what to expect from here on out. I rarely get nervous about steel coasters – but something about massive wooden rides freak me out – especially ones that travel into unseen areas. The drop into the abyss was breathtaking, and the tunnel in pitch darkness was incredibly intense and unique. It was lightning fast and beyond words. I couldn’t detect the precise location of the 90 degree banked turn, nor could I tell you exactly what was going on down there, but by the time we emerged on the other side I was cheering like a Red Sox fan who had just witnessed their team winning the world series. After a quick turn around, we dove back underground for another wild experience in complete darkness. After rocketing back into the light over what I thought would be an intense airtime hill (I just got a little floater air… not that I minded) the rest of the ride barreled through the woods and the lift hill’s supports like a bat out of hell. I was all smiles once we got back to the station. Hades was amazing – and not at all what I expected – and I am glad that it was officially my 100th coaster.

Hades is a remarkable, unique experience. Other than the first part of the ride, there wasn’t too much airtime, but the speed and intensity made up for it. There were so many one-of-a-kind elements, and it is not only a beautiful ride to behold, but also a tremendous one to experience. I was expecting a jackhammer rough ride like The Boss at Six Flags St. Louis, but felt intensity instead of pain. Maybe if The Boss was given new trains like the one on Hades, it would live up to it’s full potential.

Afterward, I met up with Jim and several other enthusiasts at the Treasure Island resort hotel on the other side of the park. It was a real treat to meet so many friendly people who I’ve seen post online for several years now – another thing that I wasn’t expecting. Matt “Mamoosh”, Dave, Rob, etc… everyone was extremely friendly. I have to admit, I was fascinated by the experience of being around so many people who had such an intense passion for and knowledge of rollercoasters. In my own peer group of friends, I am frequently regarded as the resident coaster geek, but I definitely felt like a novice in these gentlemen’s company – not that I minded.

The group piled in to several cars and headed over to a Timber Falls Adventure Park, a tiny little mini-golf park with a log-flume, skyscraper, and a cute looking coaster called Avalanche that circles the perimeter.

We decided to grab dinner at Pedro’s, a Mexican joint next to the park. My exhaustion had kicked in at this point, so I was a bit mellower and less gregarious than normal, but I still enjoyed the company and found the conversations quite interesting. I was particularly amused that Moosh’s trip as also impromptu, but even a bit more insane considering he had to fly in from out of town (not that he seemed to mind). Everyone but Jim and I enjoyed a few pitchers of Margarita’s, and although they looked quite tasty, I was a bit concerned that tequila and wooden coasters might not be the best combo.

AVALANCHE -

Following dinner, we headed over to Avalanche, which was the true surprise of the day. At first glance, it doesn’t look especially impressive, but this S&S woodie delivers – even outshining Cornball Express. In fact, I found it to be just as impressive as Hades, but for completely different reasons. I got three rides in… 2 in front and 1 in back. The near 90ft lift hill provides enough momentum to simply rocket the 3 car / 12 person train over the tiny, intense airtime hills and wild turns. This is the kind of coaster that evokes gleeful, childlike laughter. It was a riot to see people’s reactions. This is a ride that will tickle everyone, from the most innocent of children to the most jaded of coaster enthusiasts. And to think, I was totally going to pass up this ride and spend the entire evening at Mt. Olympus. I’m so glad that I didn’t.

Speaking of Mt. Olympus, I was anxious to get back, as I had spent the $$$ on my all-day pass and only managed to get 1 lap in on Hades, and still hadn’t given any of the park’s other coasters a go. We left Timber Falls a little before 9:00pm, and drove back over for one final hour.

Jim was kind enough to join me for my first (and only) rides on Pegasus, Cyclops, & Zeus. Here are my Impressions…

PEGASUS – Quite intense and unique for a “Junior” family coaster. Lots of laterals and odd elements. The ride travels over an insane looking go-kart course. Quite fun, but not something I would do more than once or twice a day.

CYCLOPS – Short but sweet – and frankly, kinda scary. The ride classic style buzz bars restraints, which always make me a bit nervous. Jim & I chose to ride in the very back, a seat that has the odd distinction of having an age restriction (no riders under 18). After feeling like I was about to be ejected from the car on 2 or 3 of the hills, I can see why.

ZEUS – This was a surprising, out & back woodie. The first ½ of the ride is simply wild, especially at night. There was some great air, and the dive into the turnaround in near darkness / moonlight was appropriately spooky. It make me thirst for a final, night ride on Hades…

… unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

My only major disappointment of the day was the way that Mt. Olympus dealt with the queue and closing procedures for this ride. Jim and I decided to get in line for one final spin on Hades a little before 9:30pm. The coaster only has 1 train operation this season, and considering the fact that the ride ops were loading and dispatching trains at a snail-like, almost “Déjà vu” pace, it wasn’t exactly blazing through the eagerly waiting crowd.

Jim and I finally got to the station a little before 10:00pm, and were 2 trains away from riding, when the emotionless ride-op women causally announced in some Eastern European accent that the park was closed and that no one else waiting in line would be allowed to ride. Needless to say, this pissed off a lot of people, as there were easily 100 or more folks waiting in the queue. People were screaming at these girls, and many refused to leave until a maintenance guy showed up and turned off the ride's power. Some mentioned that they had paid for a ticket to ride the coaster just once, and that they wanted their money back. It was quite a fiasco.

I already managed to get 1 ride in earlier that day, so I wasn’t too broken up about it, but considering I paid $32 bucks for what ended up being essentially 4 rides, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. If we had been informed at 9:25 that we wouldn’t be guaranteed a ride on Hades due to the length of the queue, we would have done a few more laps on Zeus or Cyclops instead. It just seemed like bad customer service to me, and sort of left me with a negative impression of the park itself. Sure, Mt. Olympus has 3 spectacular wooden coasters, but much of the staff came off as ambivalent about their job or the patrons, even before this debacle. I was considering driving up again later this summer with more friends, but honestly, I think I’ll wait until next year, when they get all these operational quirks ironed out. (and yes, I’ll definitely be writing a letter of complaint).

Aside from this minor disappointment, I still had a wonderful day, and was glad that I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the impromptu journey. I agreed with some of the other fellas I met that much of the park experience is spending time with good people, and in that respect it was a truly fulfilling and delightful experience.

To sum up…

HADES
GRADE: A

Pros – Unique layout, tremendous tunnel element, breathtakingly beautiful, fast & intense
Cons – A little short on airtime in the 2nd half, but this is a minor quibble

ZEUS
GRADE: B+
Pros – Great pacing, good air, nice head choppers while traveling under Hades’ lift hill. Thrilling dive into the turnaround, especially at night
Cons – A little bit painful on my back during the first or 2nd drop (can’t remember which)

CYCLOPS
GRADE: B+
Pros – Downright scary ejector air. Unique layout full of surprises.
Cons – A little on the short side

PEGASUS
GRADE: B-
Pros – Again, another unique layout & surprisingly exciting for a Junior coaster
Cons – The least thrilling of the Wisconsin Dells wood. Not much re-ride value.

AVALANCHE:
GRADE: A
Pros – Fast, tight, & wild, with some tremendous airtime. Cool ride-ops, especially compared to Mt. Olympus. A true surprise.
Cons –Nothing I can think of.

*** Edited 6/20/2005 12:23:34 PM UTC by djgreghaus***

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Monday, June 20, 2005 9:33 AM
It was good meeting you on Saturday. Sorry you only got one ride on Hades, as another ride or two would probably have made you even more of a fan than you are now.

There is a double-down on Zeus's return trip that is absolutely wicked, I think it is the second drop after the turnaround. The track seems to fall out from underneath the train and even though you're traveling in a straight line, you somehow seem to end up landing on the seat divider. Weird. But I liked the "rough and tumble" nature of Zeus since it was such a contrast to the feel of Hades!

Hopefully you'll be joining some of us on some more trips in the not-too-distant future!

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Monday, June 20, 2005 9:51 AM
Good to meet you, Greg! Excellent trip report, too ;)
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Monday, June 20, 2005 1:20 PM
It was so dark during my ride on Zeus that I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but now that you mention it Rob, I do remember the double down. Again, I only got 1 ride on everything at Mt. Olympus, so it's difficult to recall all the details.

Thanks again for making me feel welcome, guys...

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Monday, June 20, 2005 1:24 PM
Greg - everyone in the group conceeded that we needed more time in the Dells. There is just so much to see and do and some of those kitschy/campy shows, haunted houses, mini golf courses and tours beg to be explored.

Of all of us at least you're only a short 3 hour drive away....ya bastrad! ;)

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Monday, June 20, 2005 1:46 PM
Well I gotta state, Excellent TR and tell it like it is :) complaint at the end.

Im not going to avoid the Mt. Olympus because of this but I believe that things should be told as they really are. That hard close on Hades is absolute B.S. Hell, I've seen Knoebels run 20 minutes over and then give the final train double and triple rides.

Of course a park has to close, The Employees probably don't make a dime after 10 but if a park wants good press and people to return they will treat people the way they'd like to be treated and satisfy em. It's not like the line was closed early and as you said, People had bought ride tickets to use.

Sooner or later bad press and treatment of guest gets around and it will eventually hurt them.

CP left a sour taste in my mouth twice in the 80's and 90's with their policies (Some still in place and others not) And I've only been back twice because of it. (Id probably have gone ten or more times without getting treated like I did.)

Anyhow, Thanks for the TR! I wish you had gotten more rides on all the coasters and other things in what seems like a shortened day of riding.

Chuck,
Who has a appt with Hell in one month.

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Monday, June 20, 2005 2:23 PM
The weird thing is, we experienced none of that on Thursday and Friday. The park closed at 10:00 and the line was cut off at 9:30, if not sooner. What happened on Saturday was entirely different and yes, it was complete B.S. Then again, I figured something could be wrong when the station attendant was using the "hard sell" approach to fill empty seats by trying to break up existing parties. As if that was really going to help?

Moosh, we spent a total of three days in the Dells and still didn't have enough time. We did two boat tours, all the parks and wandered around the center of town and STILL didn't have time to do everything. We also did the steam train... I keep forgetting about that! So many good restaurants, so many waterparks... it really is a vacation destination and not some one day stop.

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Monday, June 20, 2005 2:29 PM
...and all without a Rocket Coaster ;)
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Monday, June 20, 2005 2:32 PM
Can you imagine how much of a destination it would be WITH a Rocket Coaster?
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Monday, June 20, 2005 3:51 PM
Did you go to the Ho Chunk Casino by chance, it is about 10 minutes from the Dells, nice little casino?

gotta love the Ducks, did you guys make it to Noah's Ark?

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Monday, June 20, 2005 3:58 PM
We stayed at a hotel in Baraboo about 3 miles past Ho Chunk so we passed it every day and stopped there on the last night. I was very impressed, even though I just made a donation ;)

Did the Upper & Lower Dells boat tours, no Ducks. Next time!

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Monday, June 20, 2005 4:03 PM
Woah, modern coasters with the double down element? I thought those were lost forever! Now I definetely have to make a trip out to this park! Just wish I had the funds to do so!

How does it compare to the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood? Is the airtime that powerful? I thought I was going to come out of the train on that one!

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Monday, June 20, 2005 4:24 PM
IMO "The Drop" on Cyclops is superior to the double down on JR. Possibly the single most violent ejector air experience there is. However, the double down on JR is far better than the double downs found in Dells (Zeuss and Hades).

The Dells definately has a nice collection of woodies. It's definately worth the trip, just expect to do some non-coaster related tourist stuff to help bide the time.

I hope the Ho-Chunk has invested my donation wisely. Because I expect to make it back, with interest, the next time I'm there. ;)

*** Edited 6/20/2005 8:25:37 PM UTC by Incidentalist***

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Monday, June 20, 2005 4:25 PM
Great TR Greg!

It was great reconnecting and I'm glad that I got to spend at least a partial day with you at both GA and the Dells. I need to get a lot more sleep and will post more when my brain is fedex'd back from Wisconsin.

Best,

Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 11:07 AM

Incidentalist said:


I hope the Ho-Chunk has invested my donation wisely. Because I expect to make it back, with interest, the next time I'm there.


They probably invested it wisely but I wouldn't count on getting it back! The only casino I ever had really good luck with was Buffalo Bills... I was doing so well that I almost forgot about the coaster I had to ride!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 1:09 PM
I am glad you enjoyed your trip, but you obviously did not do your research before you went if you expected normal "theme park customer service". Mt Olympus is not a real theme park yet. It is an overgrown tourist trap with rollercoasters. Their hours are just now becoming consistant as is their pricing. Last year their pricing structure changed every time I went. They hire workers from eastern Europe, and this year I believe most or all are from Bulgaria. English is not their first language and some speak it better than others. Some rarely talk to guests and some are very friendly. Since they are new to being a theme park, they are playing it by ear or making it up as they go. That does not mean you cannot have fun there. You just need to know what to expect and adjust your expectations and still have fun. Insead of being pissed off that they are not a real theme park yet, you should be thankful that some go-kart park has the funds to build rollercoasters and the "lack of industry mindset" to still run coasters like Cyclops with buzz bars and to build coasters like Hades with double downs and pitch black insane tunnels. I seriously believe that if the park was up to snuff on everything like you would like them, they would do a lot of things differently. Sure they would fix the hard close, and they would probably add a few trims....etc. The park is in a time warp....and that should be appreciated.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:49 PM
Just wanted to respond to a few people's comments...

JimVid:

Great to see you too. Thanks for encouraging me to make the day trip to the Dells. I look forward to seeing your photos from the weekend.

BeccaRaptor & Incidentalist:

I agree that "The Drop" on Cyclops offers more ejector air that Jack Rabbit, but JR's double-down is far more insane than the one on Zeus.

As for other modern coasters with double-downs, The Boss @ SFStl comes to mind (and it was built in 2000, I believe).

Charles N:

Thanks for your response & thank you for appreciating my "Tell it like it is" comments...

:)

RavenTTD:

I understand that Mt. Olympus isn't a real theme park yet and honestly wasn't expecting one. I agree with you that it's possible to adjust my expectations and still have a good time (which I did). I still feel that my complaint about the hard closing is valid, but I do realize that it was the result of various factors (English not being the ride-ops first language... the park underestimating the popularity of Hades...) Taking all this into consideration, I chose not to make a big deal about it like many of the other park guests did. I wasn't pissed off, just disappointed, but the park is still getting a letter regarding my feelings on the matter.

I'm sure by next year they will have a better grasp of customer service and hopefully have some consistency in their hours & pricing. I don't think that improving their service will alter the way they run their coasters. In fact, I can think of a few parks that run coasters with buzz bars which have good, if not excellent customer service (Kennywood... Geauga Lake...). I have yet to visit Holiday World or Knoebles, but I don't see why Mt. Olympus can't have their operations up to the reported standards of those parks in the next year or two.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005 11:24 PM
Nice TR Greg...wish I'd been able to join you and Jim and the band of Merry Pranksters.

Couldn't agree more about the *hard close* thing. THat's downright inhospitable IMO, and amusement parks are first and foremost in the "hopsitality industry".

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005 1:57 PM
the park underestimating the popularity of Hades...)

This is probably part of the problem. Whether the crowds are the result of Hades or the waterpark, they are used to walkon lines and are just now experiencing long lines at close for the first time.

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Monday, June 27, 2005 10:49 AM
The park is now cutting off the line and making sure everyone rides. They ran Hades till 10:15 on Saturday to make sure no one was turned away. After 10 some people came up the exit. Those with wristbands were turned away, but those with ride tickets got to ride.
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