50 years of coasters – 2018

Another incredible year on the cards and it feels like a surprisingly long time ago to me. I suppose with all the mess that has been going on recently, those care free travel times that I associate with 2018 are nothing but a distant memory. The 10 today are a strong showing from pretty much all of the most well established ride designers in these lists by now, a well rounded bunch with plenty to offer.

#10 Wing Coaster – Colourful Yunnan Paradise (China)

There was another surge in B&M wing coaster popularity and it was a big year for the manufacturer all round, with an impressive 7 coaster installations worldwide, their most since 2002. China continues to lead the charge in filling those order books and an all-new-for-2018 park in the gorgeous Yunnan Province opted for this striking design as their star attraction. It’s a mostly graceful experience with some particularly drawn out inversion-based thrills that is only enhanced by some impressive and ambitious theming, which we’ve come to expect by default from Chinese parks by now.

#9 Fēnix – Toverland (Netherlands)

Over in Europe, this up and coming Dutch park had lofty ambitions of their own and it was quite the surprise when Toverland announced that they were going for such a premium product. The coaster itself and the new land in which it resides was a stunning achievement, though for some reason I can’t stop thinking about how great the queueline was.

#8 HangTime – Knott’s Berry Farm (USA)

My primary fondness from this ride comes with the blatantly obvious way in which it shows off the effects of a minimalist restraint. Most of the namesake ‘hang’ in the ride comes from a holding brake that follows the vertical lift hill, which points riders down towards the ground at an impressively steep angle, with nothing holding them in place but a comfy lap bar. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom that I hope to see a lot more of in future.

#7 Valkyria – Liseberg (Sweden)

Case in point with the B&M dive coaster, although they’ve managed to dominate the holding brake game over the years with their near-vertical first drops. Vests leave a little to be desired in comparison to the above, but the subsequent coaster of Valkyria is full on, fantastic and, for me, quite a leap forward for this ride type.

#6 Wood Express – Parc Saint Paul (France)

The Gravity Group continued to defy gravity with their compact designs. A mere 50ft of height on Wood Express is somehow able to offer a fast paced, highly varied and thrilling ride with far more airtime than seems physically possible.

#5 Icon – Blackpool Pleasure Beach (UK)

2018 was a big year for the UK with not one, but two major attractions that were real head turners and had the potential to make a major difference to the local amusement park landscape. We may be a bit of a miserable and spoiled bunch, but it felt like that hadn’t really happened since the ’90s. Icon was the standout for me, comfortably cementing itself as my favourite coaster on home turf, earning such strong praise as ‘the only one I want to go back for’.

#4 Railblazer – California’s Great America

Meanwhile America were being treated to their usual slew of world class attractions, mostly at the hands of RMC when we look at 2018. This Raptor design was like nothing we had seen before, a revolutionary ride system that also holds it’s own amongst the best of the best in the world rather than just being a bit of a quirk. Straddling the single-rail track and being subjected to some of the manufacturer’s finest forces is a surreal experience, and a welcome one.

#3 Twisted Cyclone – Six Flags Over Georgia (USA)

This might well have been the year that secured them with true legendary status as manufacturers. Since 2011 it had seemed that they could do no wrong and this was also their busiest year to date. Comparatively, Twisted Cyclone is tiny, but that doesn’t stop it from treating you to a whole host of amazing manouevres throughout the slightly stunted ride time.

#2 Hyperion – Energylandia (Poland)

Almost all quiet on the Intamin front, but they went and knocked out something extra special in Poland. What has quickly become known as the world’s fastest growing amusement park really stepped their game up by splashing out on a 250ft hyper coaster that really put them on the map. The trains come with a similar winged seating design to that of Intamin’s finest and though it doesn’t quite produce the same extremes as those, it’s easily one of Europe’s best.

#1 Twisted Timbers – Kings Dominion (USA)

The bigger of the Twisted twins (no, not these) was superior for me. Unlike the cyclone, the timbers have plenty of prime ride time that is packed with some really powerful punches. The sequence of 3 camelbacks is one of the most sublime moments I can think of on any coaster and there’s so many more surprises along the way with this masterful design.

Elsewhere I can see that there are a few other potential threats.
The glaring hole in this list is of course Steel Vengeance, which has become ubiquitous with the phrase ‘best rollercoaster in the world’. As if RMC didn’t dominate the year enough already, surely their largest and most popular creation yet will deliver the knockout blow when I finally get around to it.
Heaven’s Wing is yet another (Chinese) B&M wing coaster with at least as much potential as the others already present.
I probably should mention Hyper Coaster, although I feel like I wouldn’t include it in the list for being a clone in this hotly contested era, even if it is a particularly spectacular one. I already applied the same (flawed) logic to my favourite Jungle Trailblazer that was copied this year.
Steel Dolphin looks like a lot of fun, on the smaller end of the Intamin multi-launch scale. I don’t think they can do much wrong with that hardware at this stage.
I don’t know if I want Time Traveler more or less, now that I’ve experienced the extremes of the Mack Xtreme Spinner first hand. Surely it can’t be game-changing for me twice in a row. Even if it can’t live up to the follow up, it will undoubtedly be a quality ride.

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Europe 09/21 – Efteling
50 years of coasters – 2019

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