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“Very deep in the Alps lies a terrifying force”

September 1, 2010

Harnessed 190 feet above the ground, workers complete construction on the roller coaster's lift.

Those are the words you will hear while waiting in the queue at Alpengeist.  The video playing overhead tells the story of the legendary snow beast rumored to terrorize the Swiss mountains.  Alpengeist, German for ‘Ghost of the Alps,’ has thrilled guests for more than 13 years, since opening on March 22, 1997.   

Alpengeist is still the world’s tallest and fastest full-circuit inverted roller coaster. What does full-circuit mean exactly? The ride is one continuous track, in which the train goes up a lift, through elements, and returns to the station after passing through a series of brakes. 

Alpengeist was designed by Bolliger and Mabillard, commonly referred to as B&M.  B&M has designed some of the top roller coasters around the world, and they are highly respected for their remarkable design and precision when it comes to these high-speed thrill machines.

Alpengeist, themed as a run-away ski lift, was designed specifically for Busch Gardens.  The lift supports at Alpengeist that resemble a ski lift, are also unique to this ride. The structure has a specific purpose other than theming.  Because traditional coaster supports would not fit into the area, support beams would have been scattered throughout the village of Germany.  As a result, B&M altered the plans and designed the tower-like structures that support the lift. 

Sparks fly at Southern Ohio Fabricators in Batavia, Ohio as a craftsman puts the finishing touches on a section of the coaster track.

In my last blog, History of the Loch Ness Monster, I mentioned that technology has improved over the years.  Engineers have upgraded from slide rules to computers, and coaster track is now cut by lasers and bolted together rather than welding. All of these elements speed up the construction process, increase the accuracy of the design, and improve the ride experience.

Engineers were off by 6 feet when the last piece of track came together at the Loch Ness Monster in 1978.  Nineteen years later at Alpengeist, the difference was only 1/16th of an inch.  However, engineers did have one issue during the design of Alpengeist; the train was too light to maintain speed and make it back to the station. That is why Alpengeist is one of only two coasters in the world to have a ‘zero car.’  The zero car, located at the front of the train, weighs 1500 lbs. and allows the train to maintain the speed needed to complete the ride circuit.

Zero car

Alpengeist has always been my favorite ride at the park.  Not only is it a thrilling ride, but it is where my career at Busch Gardens started.   What do you like most about Alpengeist?

Rob
Park Operations Manager at Busch Gardens

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. anna permalink
    September 1, 2010 11:13 am

    this is my son’s favorite coaster.he has riden almost all of the coasters at kings dominion and has riden all the coasters at busch and this is his favorite. i enjoy the ride. it is unique. it doesn’t have a slow part to it at all. looking forward to riding it again at hollow scream.

  2. Matthew permalink
    September 1, 2010 11:24 am

    I’ve always wondered why that zero-car was there. Thanks for clearing that up!! What’s the other B & M invert with one? I thought Alpengeist was the only one.

  3. Teresa permalink
    September 1, 2010 12:00 pm

    I enjoy the variety of elements. This coaster has something for everyone!!

  4. Mike permalink
    September 1, 2010 1:12 pm

    So now the question is what B&M coaster will you get next !!! We all want another!!

  5. Ian permalink
    September 1, 2010 5:58 pm

    I liked Alpengeist a lot. I rode it about five times. Thank goodness for the token lockers at the front of the facade of the ride cue. 🙂

  6. Michael permalink
    September 2, 2010 10:17 pm

    Alpengeist is my favorite coaster at Busch Gardens and my overall favorite inverted. The best parts are the twisting first drop, the oversized Immelman that follows it, and the theming of the ride and area around the entrance.

    It is also gives one heck of a night ride.

  7. Jennie permalink
    September 12, 2010 1:15 pm

    It’s been 25 years since I’ve been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, but my favorite rides there way back then were the DragonFyre (or DrachenFyre??) and the Big Bad Wolf. Obviously there are many new rides, but do those two still exist? Can someone enlighten me?

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