Drop towers. Does any park not have one? Only a few years ago, Silverwood was one of the few remaining parks in the country that could answer
yes to this question. And let’s face it, we all knew their time would come. But let’s be real: can anyone get excited about "just another
drop tower"? Silverwood wanted to prove the doubters wrong.
In the Summer of 2005, Silverwood was enjoying it’s third season of Boulder Beach – and after two years of roaring success, the park was
flying high. Numbers were at all-time levels, and the park knew that it needed to keep the momentum going. 2005 would only see the
addition of a small flat ride – the Trabant – which was met with a very mixed response from guests.
It had been years since the park had invested any serious money into something other than a coaster or a water attraction, and Silverwood
not only wanted something fun, but something that would become a landmark for the park. Something that folks would see from a distance.
Something that would be Silverwood’s new peak.
It was pretty obvious that a drop tower would be an excellent addition for Silverwood. Guests feedback had already questioned for years
why the park lacked this type of ride. And truly, the Sky Diver wasn’t drawing the thrill-ride crowd to this park.
So the park had a drop tower in mind. And they wanted it to be a big thriller. Now, who to provide said attraction? S&S was an obvious
choice. Their thrill rides are almost as common today as a Vekoma Boomerang. And therein lies the reason not to add one. You can ride
them almost anywhere. Silverwood was looking for something that would provide a slightly different experience. Enter Larson International
from Plainview, Texas.
Immediately the response among the thrill-ride community was heard. Who? Why not S&S? And what’s this news about the tower only
being 140 feet? They could have at least gone 200, right? What the skeptics didn’t realize was that the tower, while not nearly the
tallest in the country, would provide some unexpected thrills of its own. More on that later.
Next up: where to put such an attraction? The ride needed to be in a prominent spot, and Roller Coaster Alley was dying for something
to replace the lackluster Balloon Bath attraction lurking in the shadows of Timber Terror. The idea was simple, yet brilliant. Put the
drop tower right down the middle of this section of the park. A beautiful contrast to the lumber of the two woodies, and a beacon for
those traveling on highway 95 coming from either direction. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve arrived at Silverwood.
Almost as soon as the park broke ground in the winter of 2005, they announced a contest: Name the new drop tower. Come up with something
that would capture the excitement of the experience. And come on people: let’s get away from anything with the obvious "freefall"
word in the title. And so, the ideas poured in, and ultimately a unique name was selected to attach to Silverwood’s newest, tallest peak: Panic
Plunge. That about explains it, eh?
So the 2006 season arrived, and Panic Plunge was ready for its first victims – er – riders. The tower, in gleaming white, stood for all
to see. It reminded visitors that there was a new reason to head to the left when entering the park – and not just make the typical
b-line for Boulder Beach. Silverwood was offering something new and thrilling.
One of the best features of Panic Plunge is the queue itself. While waiting in line, guests to the park wrap in a sort of switchback circle
around the tower, working their way up to the front row that literally sits just feet away from the rides themselves. This provides quite a build
of butterflies for the faint of heart. Slowly they watch each set of riders fall to the ground with that look of sheer terror on their faces.
For those in line, nervous laughter is usually followed by something to the effect of "why am I doing this?"
Once aboard the ride, the over-the-shoulder restraints come down safety and securely to lock riders aboard. Then, the climb begins. Unlike
some multi-pillared drop towers, Panic Plunge is a single tower with all riders facing outward. And with a cleverly designed overhang just
above their heads, it is impossible to tell when you have reached the top.
Suffice it to say that the view is breathtaking. The gorgeous mountains of the Northwest just can’t be beat. If you can keep your mind clear,
you find yourself amazed that you’re riding a thrill ride in the middle of this wilderness. However, most can only keep their thoughts
on one thing: the inevitable drop to come.
When the ride hits the top of the tower, there is no time for thoughts.
This isn’t the usual: get-to-the-top-and-pause-for-a-while-and-then-make-some-strange-air-compression-sound-to-let-you-know-you’re-about-to-drop
type ride. As soon as Panic Plunge reaches its maximum altitude, the drop is sudden.
And it is one fast drop.
Compared to S&S towers, Panic Plunge is a hard, fast drop. Comfortable, yet you can tell this machine is pulling you downward faster
than the rate at which you would normally drop. And that 120-foot question? Well, it turns out that 120-feet is just the right amount of
time for you to completely freak out. Just look at any rider as they reach terra firma. Pale as ghosts.
And that’s the other beautiful thing about Panic Plunge. There is no "bouncing" after the initial drop. It’s all fall – all the
way down to the ground, with a sudden stop and your ride is done. Very little time to collect your thoughts before its time to get off the
ride. Short, sweet, and to the point. That’s the way we like it.
And so with that, the experience of Panic Plunge left thousands of riders breathless during its inaugural season in 2006. A new Silverwood
beacon had truly brought a fresh set of thrills and a unique drop tower to this little gem of a park in the Northwest.
Apparently the Northwest can add new thrills to "just another drop tower", can’t it?