This bird crept up on me real fast, seemingly out of nowhere. I don’t recall paying much attention to the fact that Finland were getting an Intamin multi-launch on the side of a hill, either through spoiler avoision or lack of interest. And then suddenly we were booked to go!
The more I learned, the more I discovered how excited I perhaps should have been. This ain’t no Taron layout, it has much more of an ‘Intamin trying to make Helix’ kinda vibe. For me, that’s huge. But did it work?
I admired the styling of the ride, from entrance to station. Very subtle theming, nothing outlandish, following the tracks of the big bird along the pathway. It stares at you intensely from several screens throughout the indoor switchbacks, judging you. As you approach the station there’s a very average ride theme playing and statements like ‘ride the wings of Taiga’ coming over the audio, teaching us that we’d been pronouncing it wrong (still do). A large mural decorates the far wall in an otherwise unassuming loading area.
Intamin’s best rolling stock greets the riders with a stern look. I just love the seriousness of this beast. Like it’s on a mission, got a point to prove.
Open seating, dangling feet, a cushy lap bar from above, this is how most coasters should be experienced. As we pulled forward onto the first launch track (not pictured), I had no idea what to expect.
A brief punchy launch carries the train into this first element, which provided a wonderful surprise in the form of many unusual forces. It twists seemingly in the wrong direction, hanging you out to the right side before tugging away and under to the left, like a zero-G that decides to turn a corner halfway through. Fantastic start, I’m a sucker for inventive inversions.
This moment leads you down into the lowest section of all, with a satisfyingly strong burst of positive force, before twisting and turning into the second launch. This leads to my biggest (slight) criticism of the ride. Very little has been traversed so far and so the pace is slightly off as we hit the next burst of LSM acceleration. Even the way it enters this launch felt slighly clunky somehow, it doesn’t dive into it with the grace of Taron, just awkwardly adjusts some banking and you’re off, rattling away with a slightly muted sense of power.
Into this huge, oddly-shaped top hat. And now things kick up a gear. When located in the back of the train, the drop out of this hill provides some excellent sideways ejection, reminiscent of distant cousins like the Intamin wing coasters and this makes me very happy.
Before there’s time to recover from that particularly special moment, my biggest surprise of the whole experience hits. It turns out Intamin are making stall inversions like RMC now. The execution of this floaty feeling, with the visuals of neighbouring ride Tulireki directly underneath and what we affectionately dubbed ‘Karnan’s tower’ just off to the left (right?) is simply glorious.
Before there’s time to recover from that second special moment, a violent speed hill is squeezed in before the next big inversion, the one that wraps itself around the starter element. This one provides yet another satisfying mix of forces and ensures all the upside-downy moments are wonderfully varied, just how I like it.
With that already world class sequence of elements behind us, the bulk of the twists and turns of the layout begin and importantly these are punctuated by several very strong bursts of airtime. This slither over the station has a particularly forceful exit, lurching down the side of a warehouse with a surprisingly out of control feeling.
This section alone puts Taiga in a league of it’s own when it comes to this ride type for me, with so much more contrast in the forces, even if there’s less theming to dodge. It goes on for an age and then ends with a final standout inversion, slowly rolling guests over one last time just to mess with their heads.
There’s some nice little extra touches on the way out of the ride like the ceiling height observation window in the exit shop from which I could just watch the train zipping about all day. The bird footprints follow you back out again here too. Straight back round for another lap.
Overall I absolutely adored Taiga, so much so that we came back for a second morning marathon. It was clearly a top ten ride for me, but where would it sit in the almighty list, amongst all that fierce competition?
The two important questions for a multi launch obsessive like myself, particularly out here in Europe where we seem to hold the monopoly right now: ‘is it better than Taron?’ Yes, by miles. It does so many more interesting things and there’s barely a comparison in it for me. I’m not in it for just the launches, I’m in it for everything else on offer, namely airtime and cool inversions.
‘Is it better than Helix?’ No, of course not. The pacing between the two launches alone stopped that from happening for me. It also doesn’t have the airtime moments and aside from that it’s just not as sprawling or ambitious as a true terrain layout. The location and interactions are great, but not in the same league.
What it did do is remind me how truly special these multi launch coasters can be. I still can’t get enough of that sensation of regaining momentum, with a ride having so much more to give halfway (or perhaps a little early) through the layout, rather than being all downhill (ha) from the first drop.
Keep at it Intamin, you’re definitely onto something here.