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What is the Difference Between Via Ferrata and Ziplining?

A woman in an orange helmet traversing across a rock face with a Colorado view in the background

The “iron way”, aka via ferrata, has recently become extremely popular in the United States, and courses have begun popping up across the country. 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. Zoos, 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. The history of via ferrata’s dates back to the world war I era in the Dolomite mountain range. Some of the best via ferrata’s exist there still as well as Colorado and even Peru.

So, What Is the Difference Between Via Ferrata and Ziplining?

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.

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 a ziplining adventure appealing and accessible to most people. 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. 

Zipline Colorado

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 between 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.

Via Ferrata Colorado

Where do you go to experience Via Ferrata or Ziplining?

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 try via ferrata cliffside and zipline between sections. You can even add a rafting trip before or after your via ferrata adventure for a full day of excitement.

Via Ferrata Colorado

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