After nearly three months of construction, ZipZone Canopy Tours opened to the public July 27.
Zip lining has been gaining popularity in the United States since 2002, when the first zip line tour opened on the Hawaiian island of Maui. In 2005 there were less than 20 domestic tours, but today there are more than 300.
Locally, people are looking to try more adventurous activities, says Lori Pingle, who co-owns ZipZone with her husband Jerrod, adding that although there are other zip line tours in Ohio, she thinks residents want to be able to stay in Columbus to have some fun.
ZipZone takes passengers on a two-hour guided tour through the treetops of Camp Mary Orton, which has a special place in the Pingles’ hearts.
“In the early ’80s there was a program at Camp Mary Orton called the Adventure Education Center,” Pingle says. “I went to camp there as a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. Jerrod worked at the center for a season before the program relocated to Camp Lazarus. We have also known the camp director and assistant director for a few years, and we are very familiar with their amazing programs.”
Since ZipZone opened, about 250 people have taken tours. ZipZone’s peak season will be April 1 to Nov. 1, but it also will be open on select dates during the winter.
“Our guides are excited to zip in the snow,” she says.
To learn how the Pingles’ got financing for ZipZone, why it complements their other business, and how they’re working to keep zip line passengers safe, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: What was the biggest obstacle you faced when getting the zip line off the ground and how did you deal with it?
Lori Pingle: Looking back on the adventure so far, I would say funding was one of the biggest obstacles. There aren’t a lot of options out there for young entrepreneurs through loans and other funding, and we had a tough time.
Most programs wanted us to be successful first and then they would loan us money, but there aren’t many good programs for the kind of startup capital we were looking for. We ended up getting funding from friends, family, and clients of Get a Grip Adventures who run their own tours and understand the industry.
[M]: Speaking of… Do you think your experience with Get a Grip Adventures helped you when launching ZipZone?
LP: Our experience with Get a Grip Adventures has been a huge help in launching ZipZone. Get a Grip has a wealth of knowledge in the adventure recreation field, and specifically zip line tours. We have helped over 20 tours to open their zip line tours over the last four years and trained hundreds of tour guides. We have traveled across the United States and seen more than 50 tours, so we know what works well, and what doesn’t.
[M]: Do you and Jerrod still run Get A Grip Adventures?
LP: Of course! We see that Get a Grip Adventures and ZipZone will run side by side in harmony. They are two complementary businesses. Get a Grip Adventure will continue to stay at the cutting edge of our field, providing trainings, safety inspections and consultation to our clients across the United States. This will keep ZipZone at the forefront of safety in the field. ZipZone will be a place for us to train staff to become trainers and inspectors for Get a Grip. It is a perfect partnership.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
LP: Jerrod and I have been very active in our industry to help a couple different organizations to write standards for the zip line tour industry. I am on the Canopy and Zip Line Tour committee with the Association of Challenge Course Technology, a trade organization that writes standards for zip line tours. I have contributed to the written standards that should be out later this year.
Both Jerrod and I are on a zip line standards writing committee for ASTM International, which is another standards writing organization who has standards for amusement rides. We also have helped to start the Ohio Zip Line Association that is promoting zip line tour safety in Ohio, and I am the president of the association.
To learn more about ZipZone Canopy Tours, visit ZipZoneTours.com.
Photos by Chris Walker Photography. Chris Walker works as a on-location commercial photographer working with cooperate, advertising, and editorial clients. If you would like to connect with Chris Walker Photography, email [email protected], or visit CWalkerPhotography.com.