Ziplines have been used for decades as a mode of transportation in the high mountains of the Himalayas and the Alps and by biologists in Costa Rica studying the rainforests. But it wasn’t until recently that ziplining exploded in popularity across the globe and the United States. In 2010, New York Zipline Adventures at Hunter Mountain became the first world-class zipline tour in New York. Nestled in the once economically struggling town of Hunter, New York Zipline Adventures at Hunter Mountain has had a major impact on the local economy.
For over 32 years, Bradd Morse has been designing, building and consulting on sustainable eco-tourism development projects around the world, working with private companies, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies. He has addressed the United Nations at the Global Conference on Sustainable Development and received multiple international awards, including in 2016 for the aforementioned NY Zipline Adventures at Hunter Mountain. At the time of its launch in 2010, this attraction featured some of the longest and highest ziplines in the world and was the largest zipline canopy tour in North America. Located two hours north of New York City, the Hunter Mountain attraction features three separate family-friendly zipline tours: The Sky-Rider, Mid Mountain Canopy Tour, and Night Zip Tour, along with the Adventure Tower, ropes course attraction.
New York Zipline Adventures was a welcomed addition to the local community of approximately 2,700 residents. “When Bradd first introduced the idea of the zipline, the whole county was excited,” says Heather Bagshaw, Director of Tourism at Greene County, “It has created jobs and created partnerships between the zipline tour and other local businesses in town.” New York Zipline Adventures is now the second-largest employer in town.
“The community without a doubt has seen an impact from the zipline,” says Gerry Tschinkel the VP of Sales and Marketing at Hunter Mountain. Hunter Mountain, a 60-year-old ski mountain now owned by Vail, is the closest big ski mountain to New York City. “The synergy between Hunter Mountain and New York Zipline is great. During the winter months, many local residents work at the ski mountain and switch to work on the zipline during the off-season. Our workers are outdoorsy, rugged adventure seekers so it’s the perfect fit for everyone,” continued Tschinkel.
“I’ve been with New York Zipline from the start,” says General Manager Chris Danzig. “For many years, I worked in the restaurant industry on Long Island. I got burnt out from kitchen work so I moved to the Catskills and began working with Bradd. Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked my way up from tour guide to General Manager.”
For many small ski towns across America, it can be a struggle to keep the economy booming during the off-season. Often times, restaurants and shops are only open during the peak winter season and much of that busy season can also be at the hands of Mother Nature. New York Zipline has brought new growth during the summer months in the region. “The downstate market is becoming tired of the ever-growing expenses of the Hamptons, so they are starting to come upstate to the Catskills where their dollar goes further,” says Tschinkel. The Catskills are a world away from the concrete jungle of the Big Apple, yet it’s only two hours away by car or train.
Additionally, more and more people are starting to put more value on experiences than material objects. More people, especially millennials, are traveling solely for the experience. “Greene County is quickly becoming known as a family vacation destination as well as an adventure destination,” says Bagshaw. Pamela Geskie, the Membership Director at the Greene County Chamber of Commerce, says “We have calls all the time asking us what there is to do in the area. We have people from all over the area plus out of state who come to explore Green County. We love that people are coming to see the natural beauty of the mountains and taking the opportunity to stop and smell the roses.”
Starting and operating a small business is no easy feat. Unfortunately, failure occurs more often than not. Thanks to the Bradd’s dedication, immense industry knowledge, and innovative ideas, New York Zipline has only grown and thrived. “What I really love under Bradd’s leadership is his relationship with the community. Not only has he created jobs, but he partners with local businesses to provide his guests with a small discount. During the zipline tour, the guides talk about the history of the town and also encourage guests to check out the local restaurants and shops afterward. It’s win-win for everyone!” says Bagshaw.
“The zipline has increased our summer traffic at Hunter Mountain. It’s added a level of what guests can experience here,” says Tschinkel. Visitors can enjoy a zipline through the mountaintop forest, a hike to one of the abandoned hotels in the area, and tube down the many creeks all in one weekend in the Catskills. “They frequent the restaurants, the swimming holes, and spend their money locally at the shops and gas stations.”
For some people, a zipline is just a zipline, but for many of the residents of Hunter and Greene County, New York Zipline is a way of life. Not only does the company provide income for many individuals and families, but it’s a fun and safe workplace for many who choose to not work your traditional 9-5 office job. “Many of our employees work seasonally as ski instructors at Hunter Mountain and when the lifts stop turning, they work with us at the zipline,” says Danzig.
On your next visit to the Catskills, book a tour with New York Zipline and meet some of the friendly locals who make the company and the town one of the best in the region. You’ll quickly understand why New York Zipline has made a huge impact on the local community and beyond.