SkyHigh_climbing_forestBy Alicia Dziak

It’s hard to beat summers in Western New York. There’s so much to do that it’s hard to choose how to spend your days, but there are certain places I’ve discovered that continue to amaze me.

One of those places is Sky High Adventure Park, located near the Tannenbaum Lodge at Holiday Valley.  Once on Holiday Valley Road, the way is clearly marked on signs leading up the hill.

Sky High offers an Aerial Park, a Climbing Forest and a Mountain Coaster, for a variety of outdoor adventures.

According to the Holiday Valley website, “The Aerial Park is a series of platforms and ‘bridges’ built in a four-acre section of the woods. The platforms are built in the trees and the bridges connect the platforms. The bridge may be a log, hanging chunks of wood or other obstacles or ladders and the challenge is to figure out how to get across to the next platform. It is not all strength; it is more strategy and balance.”

There are 12 courses with varying levels of difficulty, including two new courses for 2013. The more difficult the course, the higher up it is in the trees.

“Visitors can expect a good workout, but more importantly they will feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in completing the courses,” said Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director at Holiday Valley. “Groups and families get a good sense of camaraderie from the common experience and challenge.”

Everyone wears a harness with a special locking lanyard that safeguards you from falling if you slip or let go.

“Most of the time the guides give verbal assistance and try to let the climbers figure out the best way. There are guides on the center platform to help you get started on the courses. Then the guides are on the ground watching the climbers and giving helpful tips. If someone gets too tired to go on, they can help them get to an escape route or at times they will climb up to physically assist,” explained Eshbaugh.

“The Aerial Park was really fun,” said Scott Godios, 41, of Fredonia, who recently visited Sky High with a group of friends. “With five different degrees of difficulty, everyone can enjoy. They had a guide show us how to use the equipment prior to getting on the course and guides throughout to help if needed. It was interesting learning how the harness clips worked together so both couldn’t come unhinged at the same time for ultimate safety. All of us had a great time!”

For the Aerial Park, children must be at least 7 years old, and all guests must be able to perform certain physical tasks to participate. There is a weight limit of 265 pounds. The single rate is $47, but various group rates and packages are available by visiting Reservations are suggested for the Aerial Park, which can be made by calling 716-699-HIGH.

The Climbing Forest is a totally new section of Sky High that is like a 3-D version of a climbing wall. It’s the only one of its kind in the Northeast, featuring 10 trees outfitted with color-coded climbing holds with various degrees of difficulty. Each climber is fitted with a harness that is clipped into an auto belay system, and once a climber reaches the top of the tree (about 45 feet up), they let go and the system slowly lowers them to the ground.

The minimum age for the Climbing Forest is 5 years old, and rates start at $15 for a half hour session.

The Mountain Coaster is similar to a roller coaster built on a mountain. People ride in a “car” attached to rails that pulls you up the hill, and riders can relax and enjoy the view of the mountain and chairlift as they ride up. Once you get to the top, the real fun begins, as the coaster follows a spiraling path down the mountain. Riders can control their speed with brakes on the car, and unlike a traditional roller coaster, you’re on your own in the wilderness with no other screaming riders around you.

To ride the Mountain Coaster, children must be at least 3 years old and 36 inches tall to ride with an adult, or 7 years and 42 inches tall to ride alone. A single coaster ride is $8, and unlimited rides are $42.

The members of my family are thrill ride buffs, and while we regularly visit area amusement parks, but we all agree that there is something very appealing about enjoying physically challenging activities and a coaster in the great outdoors.

Sky High offers so many unique experiences that it’s sure to become a regular on our family entertainment circuit.

For more information, visit