Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster Up and Running in Banner Elk


gitv connect visitors and residents have another way to experience the Blue Ridge Mountains with the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster.

Located at 3265 Tynecastle Highway near the Sugar Mountain Resort in Banner Elk, the coaster opened May 9 under Gov. Roy Cooper’s phase one reopening.

When the second phase order was issued, the attraction opened to the general public.

The anticipated opening of the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster was originally scheduled for early January, but was pushed back.

The attraction is open year round.

“Right now with all the trees blossoming, it’s just beautiful, and of course in the fall and in the winter,” said Eric Bechard, who is the co-owner of the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster. “People come here, and they know it’s in the mountains. They know that we are kind of in a temperate rain forest. So, when people come here, they are already prepared for the mountain weather.”

The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster will also offer scenic views of the neighboring Sugar Mountain Ski Resort.

With the assistance of a German design company called Wiegand, the coaster is the work of Eric and Tara Bechard, who hail from a retired military family who acquired the 5.83 acres of land where the attraction is located.

“We’re a hands-on family. I was here with the construction crew and the engineers building it. Tara was doing stuff in the background getting things ready for retail space,” Bechard said. “We make a really good team. I much rather be out here doing hands-on stuff, and she likes being in there doing all that, and it works out really well.”

This alpine coaster is the first in the state of North Carolina.

Guests get set up in a cart, speed down a long track of loops and turns and can use a brake to determine how fast to go.

Riders control the speed of the ride through a brake system, but can reach speeds up to 27 mph.

“It feels like you’re going a lot faster with all the twists and turns,” Bechard said.

The coaster has carts that are designed to traverse the 3,160-foot track, including 2,390 feet of down track. The track includes full left and right looping turns, a U-turn and a three-quarter turn. The ride starts and stops in the same spot. It begins 770 feet up the mountain and is powered by gravity.

Ashley Brown, the Bechards’ daughter and the marketing and online customer service director for the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, said there are three near-360 degree turns, but no significant drops.

“You can go slow and take it all in or you can go fast for a real fast thrill, “ Brown said.

The entire ride up and back down is completed in about seven minutes, and guests can ride multiple times.

One ride is $16 for an adult (13 years and up), $13 for a youth (7-12 years old) and $5 for children (3-6 years old). Three rides are $35 for an adult, $29 for youth, and $12 for children.

“We really want to make it affordable for everybody and fun for everybody,” Bechard said.

The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster attraction will honor tickets, which have a time stamp on them, for two weeks. Therefore, not all the rides purchased need to be completed on the same day.