This week was the first time I’d visited Alton Towers since the opening of the new £18 million ride – The Smiler branded as ‘The Worlds First 14 Looping Roller Coaster’. The ride has had a troubled start, the construction was delayed by over 2 months owing to bad weather and problems on site. Once the ride was finished it suffered big technical issues and embarrassingly broke down during the launch event leaving press and celebs stuck on the ride. Over time, the breakdowns and issues are getting sorted, and it’s settling down well.
The last time I was at Alton Towers, Smiler looked like this..
The Ride itself has 14 inversions, and it’s packed into a relatively small space. I got a Fast Track ticket to beat the two hour queue, the queue spirals around the ride’s footers, it’s a long old queue, and it was rammed as I walked past! The queue moves inside to the station building, which is really dark, I struggled to see the Fast Track tickets in my wallet! I guess if you’ve been queuing in there for a while, your eyes become accustomed to it. Going from the bright outdoors straight into the darkness was a bit weird.
The Fast Track was true to its name, within minutes I was up the stairs and into the bright white Station.
I was ushered into Row 1 (Front Row!!) and jumped on to the next car, I’d tried to avoid the onride videos etc, I wanted it to be a surprise, with a puff of smoke, the train flew out of the station and set on its way. The ride is best described as MENTAL, aside from going up the first and second lift hill, you really don’t have much time to comprehend just what you’re doing, it’s INSANE. The well themed elements around you just fly past, and you’ve barely time to catch your breath. I love the fact there are two trains on the circuit at once, so they are ‘duelling’, the timing isn’t totally right, so it’s not as impressive as it could be. Seeing another train flying around in close proximity is a rarity on UK coasters.
I was a bit concerned as the Coaster Community had branded it as ‘too rough’ and ‘jolting’. Whilst Gerstlauer EuroFighters aren’t as buttery smooth as anything made by B&M (Bolliger & Mabillard) – I feel the criticism is a bit OTT, it’s not the smoothest ride, some of the transitions through the elements are a little rough, it’s not too bad at all. It’s nice to see something innovative and eye-catching, and The Smiler is certainly that.
The Smiler does make me sad in some respects, as it’s the last ride designed by the Rollercoaster Design Genius – John Wardley before he retires. John is the chap who has been behind some of the best rides in the U.K. I’m happy though he’s gone out with a bang, and sprinkled some of his magic onto this crazy-ass ride.
So, did I come off The Smiler smiling? Yes of course – it’s a beast of a ride! I don’t think I’d queue for 2 hours for it though, I’m looking forward to returning later in the year when the park is quieter to have a few more goes and take it all in! If you like your Rollercoasters, you’ll no doubt enjoy The Smiler!
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