Mountain_CoasterBy Jeff Martin

I think we are all guilty of traveling too far for vacation when perfectly good and comparable options are in our backyard.

A week or so ago, I took my boys and girlfriend to Cedar Point in Ohio, considered to be the best amusement park in the world. With nearly 20 rollercoasters, the park is a feast for the senses. We rode the new ride, Gatekeeper, a few times and revisited old favorites like Millennium Force and Magnum, two of the world’s biggest rollercoasters.

When we returned home, a family member suggested that we check out the Mountain Coaster in Ellicottville. Already exhausted from having ascended 300 feet and traveling as fast as 70 mph, I had no interested in another coaster and —

Wait — the what?

“It’s at Holiday Valley,” this person said.

“I thought it was just skiing and tubing over there?”

Slowly I started to remember something called the Mountain Coaster. Something about a single car traveling down the side of a mountain at the famous ski resort. I researched it a bit and discovered that, yes, indeed there is such a thing. I watched a You Tube video and, considering where I had just visited, I was pretty impressed.

So one afternoon, we hopped over to it and checked it out. The stats were impressive enough: an upward track measuring 1,865 feet in length, delivering riders approximately 283 feet into the air. You sit in a small car, which reminded me of a bumper car almost, and it’s up to you how fast you want to travel — a unique feature in the world of coasters since you’re usually held captive by a coaster’s design specifics.

Once we reached the top, the coaster moved into approximately 15 curves, some of which were tight enough to give riders that flying sensation. We especially loved the “wave” section and I was generous on the brakes for this. We coasted down and down and down, moving into a giant spiral at one point before heading into the station.

One family, the Marshalls of Olean, come every year and ride the coaster for the day. A day pass is offered, after all, and Susan, mother of four, said the ride was a great introduction for her younger son regarding roller coasters — that and the landscape is fantastic.

“It’s beautiful here,” she said. “We used to travel to Pennsylvania and do all these things, but I don’t have the time much anymore, so this is good for us.”

Above all, the Mountain Coaster is a compliment to its geography, which I assume was the point. A couple riders there that day described it as a ride that feels like it’s coming out of the mountain rather than a ride that’s just “on it.”

Twisting and falling down the hill, I got the sense that I was a boulder in a rockslide, tumbling my way down. The trees and the leafy canopies that passed beside and overhead only intensified the feeling that I was a bird of some kind.

The main lesson learned was this: I drove 400 miles round trip to ride a few rollercoasters when there was a rollercoaster in my backyard.

It made me wonder what other things we do as Western New Yorkers that take us unnecessarily far when, in fact, activities are right under our noses …

For more information about the coaster, visit