Zip Line Build: The Do’s and Don’ts

In the world of zip line building, there are lots of options for how and where you can build a zip line. There are many publications, manufacturers, and outlets that promote less-than-ideal zip line construction and operation methods. The flexibility in what some find acceptable for zip line builds can lead to injury or even death. Here at Skyline, we have strict protocols in the design, development, fabrication, and installation of zip lines to ensure the safest procedures and practices are used to ensure operators, guests, and builders alike are all safe. Hence, we have devised a list of what we feel are acceptable and unacceptable practices for building zip lines.

Good zip line build practices.

The Don’ts

Many companies make, distribute, and sell backyard zip line kits. The idea of having a backyard zip line seems awesome. How fun would it be being able to fly in your backyard? Seems like a lot of fun! However, if the correct precautions are not taken, the fun and games that go on in your backyard may turn disastrous.

Don’t use small trees for anchors

It's suggested in many zip line kits that you use trees as anchor points. The use of trees may seem like a very structurally sound option for your zip-line build. But, when you wrap the cable around the tree, it can weaken the tree's structural integrity. In addition to the decrease in the tree's stability, the contents of the tree's core are unknown. If the inside of the tree is rotting it can create catastrophic issues. The structural integrity of the anchor in a zip line that is 100 feet long can put significant force onto a tree. If the cable wraps around the tree it can create dangerous situations, putting both the operators and users at risk. If you are going to use a tree as an anchor there are specific tree species that work best for tree anchors. Within these tree species, there are minimum diameters for the tree to ensure there is enough structural integrity. In some scenarios, a tree can have a tie back to provide counter tension to ensure the tree cannot swing in strong winds and severe weather.

Not a small tree.

Don’t use small platforms with low clearance

The use of small finishing platforms can cause unforeseen issues. With low clearance, legs and arms can get caught or hit when coming into landing. If the cable clamps are too low, riders will have to use their core muscles to lift their lower body high enough to get on the platform to avoid an unpleasant impact. The cable length must be considered when designing these smaller zip lines. Cable sag, overall elevation change, and rider weight will dictate how fast the rider comes into landing zones.

The Do’s

There are many ways to safely design, build, install, and operate ziplines. At Skyline, we follow a seven-step process to ensure no stone is left unturned and all safety standards are met and put in place. In addition to the seven-step process, all ACCT, CSA, TSSA, and Canadian Z98 ropeway standards are followed. High attention to detail is required when building zip lines to ensure the safest experience for everyone.

The 7 Phases to zip line Builds

It starts at the site discovery, where the zip line location is assessed for feasibility, potential setbacks, and profitability. Second, they move onto site design, determining the business plan, the design of the zip line course, ensuring all safety standards are exceeded and natural beauty is maintained. Third, the take-off and landing zones are engineered, refining the technical aspect of the zip line operation. The creation of a structural force analysis calculating rider velocities and kinetic forces to meet all Canadian Z98 Ropeway standards, CSA, and TSSA standards is a must.

Zip line build fabrication process.

Fourth comes the fabrication of all the individual parts of the zip line systems. Skyline manufactures all hard goods in-house, meeting the strictest quality standards while structural fabrication is completed by an accredited steel fabricator. Fifth, construction and on-site assembly and installation takes place. The zip line is taking shape, and the ground has been broken. Sixth, training and operational support for the zip line operator take place. Skyline trains the operator and its employees to the highest safety standard, ensuring the client can run a profitable system. Lastly is safety inspections. Skyline operations require an annual safety inspection ensuring equipment is being maintained and replaced when necessary as well as inspecting for the integrity of the structures, anchors, and cables. Additionally, Skyline can recommend practices that may aid with increasing throughput and profitability.

Use trusted DOSH approved equipment

The use of trusted and tested equipment is a must. Utilizing components from recognized brands in the rope systems industry is a must. The use of Petzl harnesses, carabiners, pulleys, and fall arresters is paramount to the safety of an operation. The vast amount of field experience accumulated by companies like Petzl makes an enormous difference that cannot be understated. Petzl equipment is trusted by mountaineers, rock climbers, alpinists, and industry professionals for any vertical endeavor. In addition to Petzl equipment, Skyline has its own DOSH-approved harnesses and other zip line equipment, prioritizing safety every step of the way.

Trusted fabrication of equipment and structures

All Skyline's structures are designed in-house and fabricated by an accredited steel fabricator before being transported and assembled/ installed on-site. The engineers must take many factors into account when designing these structures. Dynamic and static force analyses are completed to ensure the towers and anchors can withstand any weather events and potential extreme forces while maintaining the necessary tensions of the zip line cable(s).

Trusted fabrication and structures in a zip line build.

Equipment such as trolleys, launchers, and catchers are designed and manufactured at Skyline headquarters in Pemberton, British Columbia. The Skyline technician's critical eyes and attention to detail are crucial to the safest-manufactured zipline products on the market. Every product that leaves the skyTECH machine shop is ACCT accredited and exceeds all safety standards.