After brave riders ascend the 17 stories -- yup, I said 17 stories -- on Verrückt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City, they'll be staring down from the top of the world's tallest and fastest water slide. If they don't chicken out, they will experience an utterly unique speed slide experience that will deliver thrills heretofore only available on roller coasters. Would you be brave (and slightly insane) enough to tackle Verrückt?
- Type of water slide: Speed slide with Master Blaster water coaster hill
- Height: 17 stories, approximately 170 feet
- Speed: Not announced yet; estimated to be about 65 mph
- Number of stairs to climb: 264
- Height of second hill: 5 stories, about 50 feet
An Insane Water Park Ride
Water parks aren't generally known for delivering major thrills. That's more the province of amusement parks. Sure, water slides can offer fast-paced drops, exciting twists and turns, lights-out rides in enclosed tubes, and other pulse-racing features, but they don't come close to matching the speed, acceleration, G-forces, and face-melting thrills of the world's fastest roller coasters.
Even water coasters, which send passengers in rafts racing around coaster-like courses filled with water, usually don't rev up to speeds much faster than most junior coasters. Speed slides, which, as their name implies, are designed for speed, do offer thrills, but they typically pale in comparison to the adrenaline jolts of behemoth roller coasters.
The Henry family, water park pioneers who established the original Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas and introduced many industry innovations such as the uphill water coaster, will break the mold once again with Verrückt. By combining water coaster technology with an insanely high speed slide, passengers should experience major-league thrills at the Kansas City park when the ride opens in 2014.
By the way, if you are wondering why I keep using variations of the word, "insane," that's what the German word, "Verrückt," means. The first Schlitterbahn (which translates into "slippery road") is located in a heavily German area, and many of the attractions bear Germanic names.
Look Out Below
Even getting to the ride's starting gate will be an adventure. Assuming there would be no wait (which is a ridiculous assumption for what will surely be a wildly popular ride), it would probably take about seven minutes to merely climb the 264 spiral stairs winding around the attraction's tower.
Riders will board four-passenger inflatable rafts. When the coast is clear, they will be nudged over the edge and soar down the 170-foot hill. Schlitterbahn isn't saying (yet) how steep its slide will be, but in renderings and photos it looks like it will be a pretty dramatic angle.
To put the ride in perspective, one of the world's tallest speed slides (and the current North American champ) is Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach. It is 120 feet tall, reaches about 55 mph, and is, in my opinion, the most thrilling ride at Disney World. Schlitterbahn's speed slide will be more than 40% taller and at least 20% faster. Its speed and height will nearly match the specs of a "hypercoaster," which is loosely defined as a roller coaster that climbs at least 200 feet. In other words, my adrenaline-junkie friends, this should be one thrill-packed ride.
It's Gonna Be a Blast
But the thrills won't end when passengers reach the bottom of the speed slide. Using Schlitterbahn's patented Master Blaster system, powerful jets of water will add to the momentum of the 170-foot drop and propel the rafts up a 50-foot camelback hill. To clear the five-story incline, which has never before been attempted on a water coaster, ride designers had to develop new technology.
While it's only speculation on my part until the ride opens, it seems likely that Verrückt will deliver a healthy dose of coaster-like airtime as it crests the top of the five-story hill. That would surely add to the thrills. But it also raises an interesting point: Will the rafts include safety restraints? They would protect passengers from being ejected from the rafts as they experience negative G-forces. But water slides typically don't include restraints, since they would interfere with passengers releasing themselves in the unlikely event that the vehicles capsize and trap riders underwater.
The rafts will race down the other side of the second hill and hit a straightaway before cruising to a halt. After passengers exit the ride, a conveyor belt will take the rafts on a long trek back to and up the tower.
I'm not sure who is more insane: the Henrys for creating the audacious ride or the passengers who will be lining up to test their mettle on it when it opens. I guess that's one of the things I love about this crazy industry: We're all a bit Verrückt.