Hersheypark has a 'destination' coaster in Skyrush
Written by Russell Meyer
For years, Hersheypark, has been building a world-class and diverse collection of roller coasters. From the historic Comet and its double-down-and-back to Fahrenheit and its beyond-vertical first drop, Hersheypark has just about every kind of roller coaster an aficionado could ever want. However, the park’s compact design and limited open space has always resulted in coaster designs that were solid, but rarely best of their kind. In fact, aside from Lightning Racer, Hersheypark has rarely had one of their roller coasters appear on most polls and best coaster lists. Great Bear is a fine B&M inverted coaster, but pales in comparison to nearby Dorney Park’s Talon, and doesn’t come close to world-class custom layout inverts like Montu, Alpengeist, Raptor, and Afterburn. Storm Runner is a great launching coaster, and incredibly reliable, but can’t hold a candle to the likes of stratacoasters Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka. Fahrenheit is pretty unique with its vertical chain lift, 97-degree drop, and compact, intense layout, but is generally superseded by Maverick. In general, Hersheypark doesn’t have any bad coasters, but none of them have been home runs that are constantly debated as the best in any ranking system.
However, Hersheypark has finally hit their first bulls-eye with Skyrush. The park’s tallest and fastest coaster is not only their best creation, but could quite possibly be one of the best steel roller coasters on the planet right now. As with their other coasters, Hersheypark is not breaking any height or speed records with Skyrush’s 200-foot lift hill and 75 MPH top speed. It’s also not a highly themed attraction like other nearby new coasters like Apocalypse at Six Flags America or Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. What Skyrush lacks in theming and extreme height and speed, it makes up in pure adrenaline. It’s also not the most elegant looking roller coasters with grouped I-beams used to form not only the primary supports of the lift hill, but also the track superstructure beneath the rails of the lift hill. That lift hill may not win a beauty contest, but it packs a wallop that doesn’t relent until the train hits a set of magnetic brakes before making a final controlled turn into the station.
Skyrush is an extreme force machine. The trains employ a 4-across staggered layout similar to Intimidator at Carowinds and Diamondback at Kings Island, but these Intamin trains place the outer seats off the edge of the track like a B&M floorless coaster with nothing below your feet. They also feature some pretty unusual restraints that result in my only negative critique of the ride. The bars work very similar to standard Intamin over-the-shoulder restraints, but only have a lapbar. It seems like a pretty good idea until the bar is subjected to the forces of the ride and gradually pushes further and further down onto riders’ legs at the bottom of each and every hill until the train makes its way back to the station with riders’ legs sore and stapled between the bar and the seat. This is definitely one of those coasters that riders might want to consider what they have in their pockets before boarding.
Aside from the discomfort from the extreme g’s stapling the restraints into your legs and the industrial-looking lift hill, Skyrush is just about perfect in every other way. The layout zooms by at light speed as riders are subjected to intense forces. The highlight is probably the overbanked turn about halfway through the course that is about as close as you can get to an inversion without actually going upside down. The transition between elements is so quick and effortless that riders don’t even have a chance to catch their breath or brace themselves for what’s to come. It’s like riding a bucking bronco as the train is dragged along the 3,600-foot long course. It might not be for coaster novices, but for aficionados and extreme thrill seekers, Skyrush is Nirvana. This is the coaster Intamin was attempting to create when they built Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion; but instead of sweeping turns and prolonged exposures to intense g’s, so much so that the track had to be modified to reduce the possibility of riders blacking out, Skyrush feeds riders quick doses of alternating positive, negative, and lateral g’s that keeps you guessing and craving more.
After years of building coasters that have been simply okay, pedestrian, and moderately cool, Hersheypark has finally built a coaster that every single roller coaster fan in the country must experience. The park that has been known as a place to experience a “world-class collection” of coasters now has one that will truly knock your socks off, giving fans a singular reason to make a trip to the park. Skyrush is almost assured to be near the top of every single steel roller coaster list this year, and will likely continue to appear near the top for many years to come. This is the roller coaster every fan has been waiting for. It’s by no means a record breaker, but from top to bottom it is one of the best steel creations on the planet. I can’t help but heap so much praise on this ride, and my only regret is that I don’t have a season pass to Hersheypark so I can ride this amazing creation as many times as I want this year.
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