The “iron way”, aka via ferrata, has recently become extremely popular, and courses have begun popping up across the United States. Still, in its early stages of nationwide familiarity, many people have no idea what via ferrata is, or how it came about. Unlike the via ferrata, most people have likely heard about zip lining, this popular adventure has been in the United States since 2002. The first commercial zipline in the US was founded on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, and quickly became recognized across the country. Zoo’s, rafting companies, and small city operations provide a wide array of zipline experiences. From gliding over Zoo exhibits to raging rivers, or busy downtown streets, this form of recreation has been well adapted for any environment.
So What is the Difference?
Simply put, ziplining is the act of gliding from one platform to another using a steel rope and a pulley. Via ferrata, however, is traversing from one area to another by way of iron rungs implanted into the side of a cliff or mountain with a safety harness preventing your fall. Both are extremely exciting opportunities to get high above the ground and across large areas.
In many instances, you will find that ziplining is simple and can be erected just about anywhere. The basic components of ziplining include a pulley system, a cable made of stainless steel, a harness, and two platforms. These platforms can be placed on flat ground, with one platform raised above the other, or they can be built into trees or tall buildings. Ziplining’s ability to grow so quickly, across so many areas, has been attributed to the fact that it can be easily placed anywhere in the world. The fact that there is little physical endurance required to glide from one platform to another using a rope and pulley also makes it appealing and accessible to most people.
Via ferrata, on the other hand, requires one major component that limits its availability to only a certain kind of location. To build a via ferrata course, you need a cliff or a mountain, or some sort of vertical wall that iron rungs can be forced into for people to traverse along. Like ziplining, people are suspended at high altitudes moving from one area to another. However, with via ferrata people must traverse from iron rungs to iron rungs, while hundreds of feet up the side of a cliff or mountain. A harness is still equipped, but guests are responsible for attaching themselves to new sections of rope as they move along. Many people have compared this form of recreation to rock climbing.
Where do you go to experience Via Ferrata or Ziplining?
The origin of via ferrata dates to World War I, when soldiers would plant iron rungs into the Italian Dolomite Mountains for their groups to travel quickly while maintaining a high-ground advantage. Luckily, you don’t have to travel to Hawaii for ziplining or the French Alps for via ferrata, you can actually find adventures that have both side-by-side. For instance, in Idaho Springs, CO, you can adventure via ferrata cliffside and zipline between sections! You can also go on a rafting trip before or after your via ferrata adventure. Buena Vista, CO, also has its own via ferrata adventure with mountaintop ziplining.