In mid-August the team at Energylandia published an on-ride video showing off their newest roller coaster. I'd not intended to visit Poland's largest park again until 2020, given that track was already on site for two additional coasters, but the footage was just too tempting. A quick review of flights revealed that I could do an affordable same day return into Kraków, but that was a bit too insane even for me; instead I flew over after work on Friday and spent a night in the Scandinavia Resort a scant two kilometres from my target. (This hotel was fine, and the breakfast was excellent; enthusiasts on a similar mission could do far worse.)
21st September 2019
I decided to begin my day with visits to two alpine coasters, as I figured (correctly) that I wouldn't need to stay at Energylandia from open to close. My first destination was Góra Żar, a mountain that is also home to the second largest hydro-electric power plant in Poland. The site acts as a storage system, similar to Ardnacrusha in Ireland; at off-peak times water is pumped into a reservoir at the top, where it can be released to generate up to 540MW of power for four hours. The facilities are open for tours; if I'd known that ahead of time I might well have booked one for myself.
The peak can be reached by funicular railway, though that is an expensive option as it requires both a ticket and paid parking at the lower station. Most enthusiasts should probably drive to the free parking at 49.7855, 19.2269, a journey of around ten minutes from the base. Having said that, the Tor Saneczkowy is barely worth the effort required to get to it; it is one of the shortest rides of its type in operation anywhere in the world, coming in at less than thirty seconds from start to finish, and the S-shaped layout does nothing of consequence. The one saving grace is the bargain 8 zł (~€1.82) price tag; I'm glad that I didn't pay more.
Górski Park Równica
21st September 2019
It took a little over an hour to drive onwards to Górski Park Równica, a tiny amusement park in south western Poland, just five kilometres (as the Skycoaster flies) from the Czech border. As of this writing the place has a hotel, a burger restaurant, and five standalone attractions: a planetarium, a 7D Cinema, Quad Bikes, an inflatable slide, and a Wiegand Alpine Coaster.
Tor Saneczkowy stretches just over two hundred metres further than the machine of the same name at Góra Żar, but despite the relatively minor difference in length it is a vastly superior experience thanks to several changes of direction and a mid-course helix. I was able to ride with my foot on the control lever, ensuring maximum speed from start to end. I thought about buying a second 10 zł (~€2.28) ticket but decided on reflection that it was time for me to relocate to Energylandia.
21st September 2019
My first three visits to Energylandia (in 2016, 2017, and 2018) took place in weather conditions varying from suboptimal through to actively bad. Today represented a very pleasant change in comparison; there was a deep blue sky with scarcely a cloud in sight, and the sun was shining. Perhaps unsurprisingly the park was absolutely rammed with people; I got one of the last spaces in an overflow car park that I'd never noticed before when I arrived in the area shortly after noon. (It may interest some readers to know that my spot at 49.9945, 19.4144 was almost a kilometre from the main entrance, a distance one more typically associates with places like Six Flags Magic Mountain; shuttle trams were available, but I decided that I'd rather walk.)
There was a queue of about a hundred people waiting at the single staffed ticket desk, making me very glad that I'd bought my admission online ahead of time. I knew that I'd have to pick up a parking token at some stage, but I figured (correctly) that it would be quicker to do that on the way out. The price today was just 5 zł (~€1.14), and that figure included a free copy of the park soundtrack, a thoroughly bizarre compendium of pseudo pop including a Polish-language paean to Hyperion that defies classification (and reason). The only real trick was finding a CD player to listen to it with; the one in my computer packed in years ago.
Once inside the gate I headed first to a queue time display. Almost all of the major rides were showing waits of between thirty and forty-five minutes, while the minors were indicating fifteen minutes or less. There was no significant variance between the newer and older installations, and indeed the longest wait in the park was sixty minutes for the four-season-old Formula, a testament to the calibre of the Space Warp design. The advertised 6:00pm closing time had been extended by an hour due to the number of guests in the park, and while I couldn't take full advantage of this with an evening flight it did at least allow me to escape the parking lot ahead of the multitudes.
I decided to make my way directly to the new-for-2019 section, which is located across the road from the existing installations. The access route to Smoczy Gród (Dragon Zone) is via a 130m (425ft) underpass that starts close to the entrance of Formula, and it has to be said that this lacks the capacity needed for the job; today there was a significant pedestrian traffic jam, and one can imagine that it will get worse over time if the park continues to expand westward. Satellite overheads suggest the possibility of a second path adjacent to Roller Coaster Mayan, though diverting the road around the park would seem to be the better approach in the long term.
There were three coasters on my shopping list today, and in the interests of time optimisation I decided to knock them off in the order of queue length. Tick number one thus became Draken (#2825), my sixth encounter with a Preston 30x14 family coaster and my third this year. The name struck me as both an odd and lazy choice in a park that has had a Dragon since 2015; perhaps future years will see additional spellings added to the menagerie? The ride was running a three lap cycle that was respectable if not something I felt a compelling need to do more than once.
My next hit was Frida (#2826), only my second encounter with what will in the next few years become the most prevalent version of the roller skater in existence. The first version of the 247m layout was a custom design for a casino in South Africa in 2001, and it might have remained a once-off if it hadn't been for Indonesian retailer Transmart Carrefour, which ordered an incredible forty-eight examples in 2017. Half of those have been delivered as of this writing, representing a slightly ridiculous challenge for coaster counters; who will be the first enthusiast to mop up all the roller skaters of Indonesia?
The track layout is slightly unusual, and reflects the fact that the design was originally developed for use in a building. The lowest point is not actually the station, which is on what would ordinarily be thought of as the second floor; instead, it is at the base of a descending helix that routes around other things on the indoorinstallations. On this version the track stands above neatly trimmed grass, which feels like an omission; though the landscaping is not unpleasant I'd have preferred if the space had been filled with theming or perhaps an animatronic. Notwithstanding that, however, the ride was respectable; I very much enjoyed my two lap cycle.
I took a few photos for posterity then joined the queue for Zadra (#2827), a brand new steel coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction that is for the moment at least the tallest ride of its type anywhere in the world. Signage within the park claims that the new attraction is the biggest wooden coaster in the world, an unfortunate statement that is completely at odds with reality; though the ride support structure is indeed made from lumber the track is a solid metal spine, and that is what matters with classification. The thirteen other coasters worldwide with the same track system are considered to be steel, as are lotsofothercoasterswithwoodensupports; for a marketing team to claim otherwise is thoroughly disingenuous.
The queue for the new ride is the longest that I've seen in any park in recent memory. Though satellite imagery is incomplete as of this writing a best effort estimation using Google Earth suggests a distance of around 350m (1150ft), otherwise known as a four minute walk for an average adult. The space is wide enough for three or four people to stand abreast, so it isn't too much of a stretch to suggest that it could hold several thousand people at the same time. On the positive side, the only cattle grid along the route is at the end close to a bank of lockers; aside from that it is simply a long winding path that wends its way from one end of the layout to the other.
The queue splits into three immediately prior to the station, with separate lines for front seat, single riders, and all other passengers. This is a nice idea in principle, though in practice the implementation has a serious flaw: six people are allowed through the single rider entrance on each dispatch, and as all queues end up in the same place the average visitor will quickly realise that groups can use the line with impunity. There is a countdown display over over each entrance, and on more than one occasion I saw the one over the single rider gate stuck on one despite the fact that the corresponding queue was full of people.
Leaving that aside however, the ride itself is truly exceptional. It begins with a slight descent and turn out of the station, followed by a lift to the heights which takes about thirty-five seconds. The drop that follows goes almost to ground level, and is followed in short order by an airtime bump that is powerful without being uncomfortable. A climb, a turnaround, and a second drop leads to the highlight: a positively joyous zero gravity stall that is negotiated without even the vaguest hint of jarring. A series of side-to-side turns, a floating airtime hill, a zero gravity roll, more airtime hills, and a final zero gravity roll wrap up an experience that is a definite contender for the best coaster in Europe.
The only negative about the ride for me was the restraint design, which, though not awful, could definitely be improved. Passengers are held in place by both a seatbelt and a lap bar, and the operators push hard on the latter to ensure that it is a secure as possible. This has the unfortunate side effect of tightening a pair of ankle guards that are more than a little problematic for those of us with longer legs. While it is necessary for riders to be secure, especially in a coaster with sustained upside-down travel, the overall experience would be far better if the fine folks at Rocky Mountain Construction could go back to the proverbial drawing board. As a starting point I'd highlight the B&M clamshells found on rides like Apollo's Chariot, Fury 325, Raging Bull, and Silver Star; more than twenty years after their introduction I'd argue that these remain the gold standard for comfort.
It was tempting to run right back into the queue for a second lap, but I decided to take advantage of the good weather to do a photo run around the park. I'd not intended to ride anything along the way, but the queue on Hyperion was down to ten minutes and given that it would have been very rude to skip it. In all honesty I wish I had; my seat in the middle of the back row suffered from acute vibration, and the train was visibly shuffling over the top of each hill, inducing a headache that took some time to clear. It was amazing how much the experience had degenerated in just a year, and while I have no inside information on the subject I can't help but wonder whether it might be explained by a change of wheel compound. The fans on the brake run that I noted in my previous report were gone; suggesting that whatever is there now is more heat resistant.
The queues on both Dragon and Formula were longer than I felt like dealing with, and rather than burn time there I decided to install myself on Zadra for the balance of my visit. There was enough time to do three laps, and I was lucky enough score the back row for one of them, though I have to say that there wasn't a significant difference between there and the middle seats. It would have been nice to try the front, but after ten minutes in line it became obvious that I wouldn't make it through before my programmed departure time; perhaps I'll get to do it on my next visit.