Sweden 10/16 – Kolmården

As of writing this, I’ve only ever boarded a plane with the sole intention of riding 1 rollercoaster, singular, once before. It wasn’t entirely by choice, previous events rather forced the issue when Wildfire at Kolmården failed to open on schedule back in June 2016. We still had the tickets and the park had been sympathetic enough to offer us a free lunch, so maybe that was the real reason for this trip.

We arrived at Stockholm airport late on the Friday night and proceeded directly to an adjacent hotel. Beds inside a Boeing 747 had been an option for the evening, but the experience would likely have been wasted on us through tiredness. There was some form of party going on around a pool table below the lobby as we trudged to our room, sidestepping a lively bunch heavily engaged in drinking, noise making and music blasting from a small stereo.
Not what you want to see when hoping to scrape 4-5 hours sleep before a long and active day, but the world’s most effective soundproof door instantly saved us. What party?


Comedy followed the following morning as we hopped a fence to the adjacent car hire and were the first to arrive at the desk for the day. A desk which both physically rose and lit up dramatically to greet us as the lady rotated her chair towards us in a perfect synchronised fashion. It was such an unexpected and brilliant moment, though seemingly rather redundant.
For the second time I was given an Audi in Sweden and still not particularly impressed by it. There’s a distinct lack of functionality for the average music lover and it kept making a worrying and unjustified fuss about tyre pressures.

It was a scenic drive, taken in much better spirits than when we had last travelled through the area and we soon arrived at the gates, to actually go through them this time. We hadn’t even laid eyes on Wildfire previously and during the walk through the park the reasoning became apparent. It’s a long way off.

#1 Wildfire

That wasn’t going to stop us though. This was redemption. We were finally able to ride our first RMC creation and see what all the fuss was about.
Except for the most part it didn’t actually show us what all the fuss was about. Having since experienced double figure coasters from the manufacturer, Wildfire lacked the essence that makes them truly special for me.

Of course at the time, particularly with no point of reference, it was still an amazing ride, an instant addition to the top ten and I loved it to pieces. It brought up some questions though and I’ll likely do a full review of the coaster to accompany this report.

In the shadows of the magnificent stall element lies a Vekoma Junior named #2 Delfinexpressen. I was likely too enthralled by the visual majesty of Wildfire to take any pictures of it though. If you’ve done one, you’ve done them all. Except for the cred of course.

The same can be said for the other family coaster, #3 Godiståget which we ticked off at some point during the day, although a little harder to come by I had already done two of the model. It looked better, but alas, no pics today.

The other standout attraction in the park of course is the cablecar which takes guests on a safari tour of many large animal enclosures.

It begins with some great backstage views of the RMC (oh look, I hadn’t actually spotted the Vekoma there before).

But the actual animal exhibits are amazing too, particularly from such a rare vantage point.

And it gives you the best opportunity to appreciate how stunning the surrounding scenery is here, at a more leisurely pace than from Wildfire’s turnaround.

Feet back on the ground we claimed our complimentary lunch from a tasty noodle stall (have to inject a bit of Asia into every trip), before spending some time taking in the rest of the many vast zoo exhibits.

It’s definitely one of the better zoos out there for me, with or without coasters. The setting naturally lends itself to a much more relaxed atmosphere than any equivalents in a city and there’s a noticeably authentic feel to most of the habitats.

Closed out the visit by racking up double digits on the coaster, just to justify the trip that little bit more.
By mid afternoon it was time to head back to Stockholm airport and fly home the very same day. A real whirlwind tour if ever there was one.
And totally worth it.


Denmark + Sweden 08/15 – Liseberg

For the next portion of the trip we hired a car from an unassuming location in the north of Malmö and took a leisurely drive up the E6 to Gothenburg and little did I know what truly awaited there.

The main reason it was a leisurely drive is the opening hours that Liseberg usually operate under. It’s quite common for the gates to be thrown wide well into the afternoon, as late as 15:00 and this is something I have great respect for. No early morning starts when you’ve just been up til midnight at the previous park. To make up for it, the park is regularly open as late as 23:00 giving plenty of opportunity for night rides, atmosphere and, being another city park, is perfectly set up for locals to casually come and spend an evening full of delights. If I thought living near Tivoli would be life-consuming, then residing in Gothenburg would be absolutely living the dream.

After parking at the hotel, it was a quick and easy ride on the tram to get to the entrance.

Liseberg

There are usually great deals on the park website if you book a visit in advance. I had opted for the 2 day wristband which comes with 3 free timeslotted fastrack tickets for the major attractions of your choice, for both days, so before knowing how good the park was in terms of operations I was already extemely comfortable knowing that there would be ample time to enjoy everything. This was an understatement.

Balder

The visit began with my first experience on an Intamin ‘prefab’ wooden coaster. There are only 4 in the world and Balder is the smallest of these, but that doesn’t hold it back at all. Strangely the station is full of quirky theme tunes such as The Simpsons and the Imperial March from Star Wars. This is topped off by an endearing horn upon dispatch.

The train takes the lift hill with surprising speed and smoothness, builds up some further momentum in the turnaround and then violently hurtles into a deceivingly steep drop for which sitting in the back row is pure carnage.
The sole feature that this ride type offers is a bucket load of airtime, packing every opportunity in the layout with hills that kick you well out of the seat. On the first few goes, I found this incredible as it was beyond anything I had experienced before.
Over time the method of execution started to become a little jarring. The corners stood out as being very repetitive, purely designed to line you up for the next straight and I soon found myself anticipating each and every moment before it arrived, gradually weakening the impact.
Still a fantastic ride, but I’m clearly starting to get fussy.

Kanonen

As though part of a 2 for 1 deal, another Intamin sits just next door, this time in the form of a Hydraulic Launch coaster.

After being told to ‘place your head against the headrest’ by an amusingly nonchalant announcement, the train fires out of the station into a tophat at a slightly underwhelming speed of ~46Mph (compared with the same ride type in the form of something like Stealth, which nearly doubles that and in a shorter amount of time). Crucially though, Kanonen has much more of a layout to offer, so how does this fare?

Unfortunately not well. Something about this train and restraint design, which are generally used to perform record breaking feats, makes each of the comparatively tiny elements here ride with a certain awkwardness. The result isn’t a bad coaster by any means, it just left a lot to be desired.

Also down in this area is the rapids ride, Kållerado. I admire these most when they have both peril and character and this version was done very well. I had a particularly entertaining episode where one of the boats in front of us was stranded, unrelentingly being pushed against a wall by a wave machine and continuously being soaked by a nearby geyser. The boat we were in just decided to go for the overtake and sailed straight past, while the other guests watched helplessly, clearly distressed. I didn’t even know that could happen, but I love it.

It was time to head up towards the hill that spans the western side of the park, an area that was about to become my favourite place on earth.

Lisebergbanen

At the base of this hill is the station for a Zierer/Schwarzkopf/BHS (it’s complicated) family coaster, perhaps the best ‘family coaster’ out there. The operations in themselves are a sight to behold here, as the ride can run up to 5 trains at the same time using a double length station (which is decorated like an actual train station) and various block sections throughout the expansive layout.
Once on board, a ridiculous 150ft climb takes you to the top of the hill, before unleashing the potential.

The ride goes on forever, working its way down the hill while interacting with both the landscape and several of the other surrounding rides along the way. With forceful ground hugging turns, sharp changes of direction and significant airtime moments, the lengthy experience is nothing short of incredible.

Helix

Even having had a taste of what this park landscape could provide, nothing could have prepared me for the Mack Launch coaster that sits at the top of the hill. Helix completely redefined the rollercoaster as I know it and instantly became, by far, the best ride I had ever experienced.

The words in a trip report can’t really do it justice, though I did make an attempt to outline the reasons for this claim here.

Nestled between these two masterpieces is Uppswinget, the S&S Screamin’ Swing and this is where the magic happens. It was already one of my favourite flat ride types for the freedom of restraints and sensation of falling out of your seat, but the way this installation swings between Helix and out over the edge of a cliff above the triple spiral of Lisebergbanen, with trains of each ride regularly whizzing past provides nothing short of pure joy for me.

From this very same spot, you can appreciate the height of Atmosfear, the Intamin drop tower. The ride offers unrivalled views of the surrounding city along with a very sustained and satisfying drop sequence.

At the far end of the best hill in the world sits the unassuming Flume Ride. A tranquil series of lifts and meandering sections gradually take you up to the top, passing several other favourites in worryingly close proximity along the way. When the first drop is finally unleashed, it becomes a truly spectacular log flume, kicking you out of your seat not once, not twice, but three times consecutively in an endless barrage of chaos and insanity. The water ride game here is really top notch.

If there’s one criticism I could stretch to for Liseberg it would be the lack of dark rides to round off the otherwise amazing collection of attractions. The only offering is Sagoslottet, a fairy tale castle with suspended flying boat vehicles passing through several well known scenes. Although decent, it doesn’t inspire the desire for multiple laps like most of the rest of the park.

There are two other coasters in the park to keep the younger guests (and me) happy. Rabalder is a Zierer Force Two that sits in the shadows of some of the greatest rides on earth and Stampbanan is a questionably small Preston & Barbieri that blends into it’s area rather nicely.

The queues had been kind to us all day, by means of the highly capable staff and procedures, so the fasttrack tickets I had acquired for free were mostly used out of principle rather than necessity. In the booking process I had used them to secure night rides on the major coasters and as darkness enveloped the park, like Tivoli Gardens, the place really started to feel special.

The night rides were, of course, life changing. The final airtime hill on Helix facing out towards the city will forever remain etched in my mind as one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever encountered.
The best part of all? We got to do it all again the following day.
I don’t think I could ever tire of Liseberg and due to the raw happiness it instilled in me, I decided it was time to take this hobby a lot further than I had ever anticipated before.


Sweden 06/16 – Gröna Lund

Day 4

It’s a long drive from Gothenburg to Kolmården and it felt all the longer when what we called ‘the main road to Stockholm’ became single track lanes through dense forests. With no confirmation either way from the park about whether they had fixed the issues with thier new ride yet, we were continuing the trend of the trip and taking it easy, 50:50 on whether we might just be wasting our time at this point.

As we approached the particularly beautiful and scenic part of the country that houses a hidden zoo and RMC, we saw several signs which seemed to indicate there had been either low level protests or strong showings of support to the construction of the ride. Hay bales and paint on trees spelled out the name. This amused us.

What didn’t amuse us, after finally reaching the car park, paying for parking and walking to the entrance was hearing the staff break the bad news – Wildfire was not open yet and wouldn’t be for another week. As we now knew we would HAVE to come back another time, the obvious choice was to walk away, not use the pre-paid tickets already ordered online, get back in the car and drive to Stockholm to buy some cheese.

I’m certainly no stranger to spite in this hobby, but this was by far the biggest blow I had ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a great time on this fantastic trip, but my primary goal of the whole week was to ride this thing and it didn’t happen. What hurt a little more was the conviction with which the park had advertised the opening of the ride and unusually for me (I rarely care about anything before it’s built) I had been hanging on their every word. During construction, Wildfire had a massively detailed documentary series put out by Kolmården every few days showing every step of the build. They released cinematic trailers of grizzly men battling hard against all odds to piece the wood together, covered in sweat, mud and rain. Fires raging through forests – Wildfire… is… free…
One particular video that stood out was the park manager himself declaring ‘I’ve just walked the track of the completed ride and it WILL open on the 18th June. Steal a car, buy a boat, hire a plane – do what you MUST to come and ride the greatest wooden rollercoaster in the world.’ This quickly became a great source of parody for us as we had done exactly that, and it was closed.

Day 5 – Gröna Lund

We dropped the car off in the centre of Stockholm the following morning, at the smallest hire premises imaginable. They had a single space outside in which to park and no one was making it easy for me – road works on all sides, two men carrying a pane of glass like a comedy sketch and cyclists getting angry at me merely for existing.
From there it was a short tram ride to the final park of the trip.

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I started off the day really happy. All these coasters crammed together into such a tight space – it’s ride interaction heaven here, right up my street. Sweden have it so good. Or do they?

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Jetline

I loved the look of this ride, a classic Schwarzkopf diving in and out of the tracks of 3 other creds. Riding its big brother Lisebergbanan on the same trip made it seem rather underwhelming on the whole though. Moments that look strong from offride only do so from certain angles – you get up close and it all feels a bit tamed down. It was fun, but nothing special.

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Twister

As was my first Gravity woodie. The restraints were slightly off on this, coming in almost over the chest meaning what airtime it had was mostly eliminated by having to brace my rib cage. Whether it’s the wheels or the steel supports, having to queue inside such a tight structure is loud to the point of obnoxiousness and it also gave me a headache both on and offride.

The positives – I really do admire how long this ride feels to go on for, given the size. With less than 50ft of drop to begin with it just keeps on finding things to do. It also has an exhibition of other wooden coasters from around the world throughout the queueline. If you could shut the noise out, recognising and reading about these was great fun.

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Vilda Musen

The Gerstlauer bobsled is another of the intertwiners here, though my time on it never seemed to capitalise on any exciting interaction. As a model they have their odd moment of success, but most of the way it’s a glorified wild mouse.

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Kvasten

No more than a few weeks prior, I had ridden the brand new installation of this same Vekoma SFC layout at Paultons Park. Being older and seemingly not that well looked after, this version paled in comparison.

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Insane

Even if Twister hadn’t given me a headache, this abomination would have. The Intamin zacspin is an evil invention, the seats can flip freely as the cars negotiate the horribly lurchy layout. Pitching head over heels and being dropped onto your brain in sudden bursts of random force is unpleasant at best, damaging at worst.
I dread the fact that more of these exist and that I need the creds.

Talking of creds, there were two more baby ones to tick off. Nyckelpigan – a small Zierer Tivoli with a fun name to say and Tuff-Tuff Tåget – a Zamperla that barely qualifies as a coaster. If you’re at all worried about the embarassment of riding children’s rides as an adult, it’s tough tough to get. Yeah, that one’s fun to say too.

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Blå Tåget is a traditional ghost train with some bonus modern features in the refurbished cars. I can appreciate that it was a good example of the genre, but the ride hasn’t left a lasting impression on me.

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Gröna Lund has almost as many towers as it does coasters. We did both of these. Fritt Fall on the left is a huge Intamin drop tower that packed a massive punch over a long period of time – one of the best of its kind.
Eclipse on the right is an even huger Wave Swinger, once the tallest in the world. If chairoplanes don’t scare you any more, getting on a 400ft version just might. I wasn’t nervous until I looked up and considered how thin the chains look. It sure is windy up there, buffeting all over the place.

I was a little disappointed with the park on the whole. That initial buzz of excitement I had was soon washed away in a sea of middling rides and noisy guests. It didn’t have the charm of the rest of the country – something just didn’t click with me and there’s nothing outstanding enough to make me want to return for another attempt.
As it was only ever getting busier and louder as the day wore on, with a concert being set up for the evening, we didn’t feel like queueing longer for anything again so headed out a little earlier than anticipated for some food and a relaxed train to the airport.















Sweden 06/16 – Skara Sommarland

This trip followed much of the same route I had taken 1 year prior, with the added extension of a one way car hire and driving over to Stockholm. The main draw for me (aside from revisiting Liseberg and Helix) was the planned opening of Wildfire at Kolmården – Europe’s first RMC.

Day 1

In what was to be a very long first day, we arrived in Copenhagen and headed straight to Tivoli Gardens. After finding somewhere to store luggage we took a quick lap of the park ticking off all the major attractions, to be safe, before jumping on another train to Bakken.

Bakken was much as I remembered it from before, with slightly less rain. The atmosphere isn’t great, always having lots of old people in restaurants staring at you, seemingly judging you for being young and having a good time. The rides aren’t very good either, though Tornado is a unique Intamin spinner, the standout is an unassuming mine train.

Tivoli couldn’t be more different – a gorgeous park with a lovely atmosphere and two worthy coasters that I could just bounce off all day (Daemonen and the correct Rutschebanan). We returned for a wonderful evening of rides and some extra magic happens at night when the place lights up. You just can’t go wrong here.

As midnight approached, we still needed to lug our luggage back out of the park and board a train bound for Malmö, over the border in Sweden. The process had changed slightly since my last visit and there were extra checks for border control, so we were barely managing to stay upright by the time we reached the hotel.

Day 2

Scandinavia knows how to look after us though. Late park closures also mean late park openings so we still had more than enough sleep. We had heard that Kolmården were having some troubles with their new ride and that it hadn’t actually opened yet. This was concerning, and we spent the rest of the morning doing some digging. The website wasn’t much help – stay tuned for more details, or words to that effect.
Never mind, Liseberg.

Took the satisfyingly casual drive up to Gothenburg, parked at the perfect hotel and jumped on a tram to my favourite park in the world. Helix reaffirmed that to me that it was still the best and Mega-Lite got a new favourite, that’s all that matters. The best nights in the industry are found at Liseberg.

Day 3 – Skara Sommarland

As Liseberg is so easy and demands 2 evenings of your life, minimum, for any visit, there was an abundance of time to check out another few creds a couple of hours to the north east. So as we begin to question whether this report is actually going somewhere, here’s a new park for you.

Just when I think things can’t get more relaxed, this place is more summer camp than theme park, with friendly staff just cycling around without a care in the world.

#1 Tranan

The main draw here is a unique S&S Free Fly. It has a winged train with cars on each side that can pivot and swing horizontally as it traverses a somewhat uneventful layout. Don’t be fooled though, even a normal looking piece of track can cause this ride to provide some surprising sensations.
If they ever try to step one of these up a notch, I’ll be all over it. For now, as it stands – a bit of fun, nothing more.

Something less fun is the park’s stock model Maurer spinner, #2 Spinner. The standard wild mouse layout just doesn’t seem to suit these usually superior spinning cars very well, resulting in a rough and awkward ride.

#3 Gruvbanan

Last up is a Mack powered coaster. From a spectators perspective, you would think the layout consisted of straight flat lines, but there’s a big helix through a weird and wonderful warehouse with a completely random assortment of objects (theming?), providing plenty of charm.

With that mission declared a success, it was back to Gothenburg for life changing experiences.

Day 4


Norway + Sweden 10/18 – Liseberg

Day 2 – Liseberg

So this trip wasn’t consciously planned around the opening of Valkyria. It was more of a case of I’m always looking for an excuse to come here (have I mentioned how much I like the place) and oh look, the new ride is here too.

These days I’m firmly in that mindset of ‘oh, how uninteresting’, when these B&M dive coasters get announced and this one was no exception. It’ll be better than Kanonen, but not excited at all.

Valkyria

So here we are. Nice looking station there. The area has changed quite a bit, particularly during this halloween time as there was a scare zone directly in front that doesn’t quite tie in – a crashed bus and some zombies.

Bags aren’t allowed in the queue here, so they’ve got a free locker system in the shop below. It’s a quick and easy system.
These things always make me think of Arthur and how much of a farce that was.

(Western Regions Heaven – Happy Valley Chengdu)

Clearly they missed out by not investing in one of these though.

We had our free fastracks from booking park tickets online for this on both days so didn’t spend much time in the main queue. It’s got a little shop and some household objects. There’s a dedicated front row queue towards the end, splitting off from row 2 & 3. Seemed pretty popular in this quiet period, being the same length as the main queue but obviously moving at half the speed.

A few features in the station – some nice looking fiery pots and shield on the wall. There’s also a shadow projection of wings flapping on the far wall, which looks pretty neat.
A final check for loose items is carried out while you’re at the air gates, they can take a tray of your smaller stuff to the other side for you, so you dont really have to bother with lockers if you’re bagless.

On to the ride then. Is it good? Yes. I was pleasantly surprised in a number of ways.

It’s got pace and purpose to it. The bigger dives have that slow lumbering feel to them, spending an age in each dull inversion and mincing around giant corners.

As soon as the drop is over on Valkyria, it hauls arse through everything else in the sequence at a noticeably different rate and that makes a big difference to me. Even the lift hill is weirdly quick.
It reminded me most of Krake. The punchiness of that, but with a more significant and superior layout.

The vest restraints, which worried me, don’t hurt the experience at all.
No restriction on the air time of the drop.
No weird tightening halfway through.
No uncomfortable hanging in the inversions.
There’s hope for this lot as well.

The view from the top is pretty unrivalled (with Liseberg bias) and the interaction of the drop is insane. It’s a busy area, with pathing between the two cleverly shaped holes and if you’re sitting on an outside seat, it feels like they’re standing directly under you as you fall. I said Draken was the first time I’d felt so up close and personal with the main drop on one of these, but Valkyria took it another stage further.

Really liked it then. My new favourite dive coaster. Well done Liseberg.

Loke the Gyro Swing was also new to me, the park sure have been busy since last time.

It’s really good of course. Lap bar effect on a stupidly massive swinging arm, great views all round, both upside down and otherwise. Well done again.

Balder has a new sign and a new entrance through a different part of the structure. The old queue has turned into express pass. It still has the old TVs playing the instructional videos, but now that it’s trying to blend in with its new friends, there isn’t the interesting mix of music in the station and barely any horn action on dispatch.

Think this ride has suffered in my eyes from this visit. It’s still a lot of fun, but the formulaic Intamin layout bugs me a little too much now. 90% waiting for air time to happen, 10% air time happening. If that’s all you’re into, then it’s perfect.
I find myself sitting there with way too much time to think about how laughable the corners are and how the design process went down:
“How many hills can we fit in this between this corner and this corner? 2?”
“Nah just 1 here mate, stick an extra bit of straight in, that’ll do.”

Aerospin was new to me as well. Another great flat ride with incredible views.

Lisebergbanan hasn’t suffered. Still a stupidly good adventure of a ride with stupidly good throughput. Watching one of the 5 trains going past every 20 seconds is a great way to spend a mealtime.

We got one of those perfect runs where you race a Helix train along the hillside as well. That hill bit with Uppswinget… pretty much my favourite area of any park ever.

Some other random thoughts:

– Didn’t know the dark ride had gone, went round the corner looking for it only to be confronted with grass and more Valkyria. Then laughed.

– Already being a fan of Max in Sweden, them replacing Burger King is a vast improvement.

– I’ve never really got into Halloween at parks, but damn they make it look amazing. Easily a million pumpkins distributed, but plenty of subtle touches as well.

– Everything was pretty much walk on all weekend so, you know, awesome as always. Can’t not have a good time at this park.


I’ll leave you with some Helix porn. Still the next level.

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