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Why Vertical Trek Innovations Continuous Belay System is Right for You

The Adventure Park Industry is growing at a faster rate than ever before. In fact, there's never been a better time for new aerial adventure park operators to enter the industry and make a name for themselves. As exponentially more aerial adventure and zip line courses pop up all over the world, it's essential to ensure you are utilizing the absolute best, safest, most efficient, and cost effective gear and equipment on the market. Through more than twenty years of experience in the industry, we can confidently say that the design of your course, combined with the equipment and hardware you utilize to enhance your customer's experience can make or break a company's success.

The aerial adventure park industry has made tremendous advancements in technology over the past few years alone. Most notably of these changes are the significant improvements to the way we protect our guests. When considering the type of safety system to implement on your course, it's easy to find yourself lost in the wide array of belay systems offered. In this article we'll discuss some of these differences to help you choose the belay system that's right for you. As a whole, belay systems can be broken into three categories:

  • Traditional/Static Belay Systems

  • Smart Belay Systems

  • Continuous Belay Systems

Traditional/Static Belay Systems

The most widely known form of belay systems on the market are known as traditional or static belay systems. These are often two locking steel carabiners or steel locking "snap hooks". In operating a course with a static belay system it's imperative to train and continually monitor guests to ensure one of the connections is always closed and connected to the course. This system works by utilizing two hooks to keep the participant connected at all times by only moving one connection point at a time.

The downside to a system like this is most notably the potential of user error, leading to participants removing both safety connection points. The potential for accidents with a traditional system can be quite high if staff are not constantly monitoring and checking participant connection points. In addition to the potential for accidents, traditional static belay systems can tremendously slow down a tour, as time needs to be taken to safely transfer each participant's safety hooks one at a time. During high throughput periods, it can be easy to become entangled as participants are moving their safety connections around on each platform.

In an effort to eliminate the likelihood of user error which puts people at risk, challenge and zip line course operators began designing two new types of belay systems to protect participants and increase efficiency on tour. These can be broken down into the two categories of Smart and Continuous Belay Systems.

Smart Belay Systems

Smart Belays are most similar to the traditional belay system in that they utilize a two hook design or in some cases, a double sided carabiner design. While the design of these systems can vary, they all operate in quite similar ways. The two safety connection points communicate with one another through locking mechanisms that intend to only allow one of the hooks to open at a time. Once the first hook is transferred and lock, the second hook becomes unlocked allowing the participant to advance to the next section of the course.

Through our experience working with Smart Belay Systems, we've found that while the mechanism is designed to only allow one hook to open at a time, these systems can often be beaten and both connections, if tricked, can be removed from the safety line. Through our experience designing, installing, retrofitting, training, inspecting, and operating zip line and aerial adventure parks we've learned that if a system can be cheated or beaten, there are participants out there that will figure out how to.

Smart Belays can also become quite cost prohibitive over time with the need to perform maintenance on the safety hooks and send your hooks off for an expensive annual recertification.

Continuous Belay Systems

The newest and fastest growing choice in the industry are the continuous belay systems. Continuous Belay Systems ditch the two hook mentality and allow participants to seamlessly slide one safety connection point through the entire course without ever disconnecting. Continuous Belay Systems have become a popular choice for many adventure course operators around the world due to their long list of benefits and unbeatable safety.

Continuous Belays work by installing specially designed anchorage connection points at the beginning and end of each aerial element, which allows the safety hook to slide from one cable to the next by passing through a bracket. The small gap in the safety hook is just large enough to pass each bracket without being large enough to pass through the cable, keeping the safety line encapsulated by the safety hook at all times.

Vertical Trek Innovations Continuous Belay System was the first Continuous Belay System in the world and has an unbeatable track record of safety with hundreds of courses currently using our belay system around the world! Continuous belays are a great option because, unlike Smart Belays, they often do not require an annual recertification and require significantly less maintenance. With no moving parts or "smart" mechanisms, the possibility of accidental malfunction is eliminated, leaving staff more time to encourage and less time needed to facilitate and monitor guest connections.

When exploring the variety of Continuous Belays on the market. You'll notice two main types: Hooks and Trolleys.

 

Trolley type continuous belays aim to eliminate the need for a second piece of equipment to be carried by the guest, allowing participants to transition from bridges and zip lines without needing to attach an additional trolley. The increased usability by this one connection point does come with a few draw backs, however. With the inclusion of moving parts and having the trolly always attached on aerial elements and zip lines, the trolley component receives a higher amount of wear and tear than traditional trolleys that are only attached on zip lines, leading to a shorter lifespan overall and more frequent equipment replacements. Trolley type continuous belays are also more limited on the length of cable they can connect, making them a good option for smaller courses, but less applicable for longer or higher tensioned cables.

Hook type continuous belays do require an additional trolly if zip lines are present on your course, however the additional gear is only connect on zip line elements leading to a longer lifespan of the gear overall. Since the safety hook does rest on the cable as participants move throughout aerial elements, the hook does accumulate wear and tear over time. While the amount of wear and tear is extremely dependent on use, we've found the aluminum Vertical Trek Innovations safety hooks tend to last several years before requiring replacement. Hook type continuous belays can span various length cables depending on the manufacturer, though most are still limited to smaller courses with lower tensioned cables.

Vertical Trek Innovations Continuous Belay System

Vertical Trek Innovations is by far the most versatile continuous belay on the market with the ability and strength to connect zip lines and aerial elements on a much larger scale than other belay systems. The Vertical Trek System has had proven success on both small aerial adventures and large scale adventure parks including Historic Banning Mills, the Guinness World Record holder for the largest zip line and aerial adventure course!

Vertical Trek Innovations created the original continuous belay system, first designed in France for Via Ferrata and later adapted to suit the needs of the aerial adventure park industry. The VTI system has an assortment of anchorage parts to connect virtually every element of your aerial adventure including: aerial elements, zip lines, ascents, descents, climbing structures, free falls, and more!

The newest version of VTI's safety hook, the Safety Hook Seven, includes a steel wear plate to significantly reduce wear and tear on the safety hook. The steel wear plate is still softer than the cable, eliminating concern for damage to the cable, and can be easily replaced over time to prevent the need to buy a whole new safety hook!

Vertical Trek Innovations anchorage parts are equally versatile. The X-Quad plate allows participants to pass each other, creates alternate routes for multi-directional travel, and break away or extraction points along the course. The CBS unit is the ideal system for any of the more unique experiences on your course such as free falls, vertical ascents or descents, climbing, or elements where a belay cable might interfere with the user experience like Tarzan swings or rolling elements.

All of these incredible features make Vertical Trek Innovations the premier adventure park belay system and help it stand out as the strongest, most versatile and durable belay system on the market.

Thanks to Vertical Trek Innovations simple to use anchorage parts, it's incredibly easy, fast, and cost effective to retrofit existing courses to the Vertical Trek Continuous Belay System. In most cases, we can even swap out anchorage parts during normal operation! Contact us to find out just how easy and profitable a future with the Vertical Trek Innovations Continuous Belay System can be!

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