It’s time to take our hats off to our experts: riding down an alpine slide is huge fun. Going up, visitors are usually pulled while sitting in a sled and looking at a pretty landscape. The joyful anticipation for the ride increases as the first sleds are already going down, with people cheering loudly. Then it’s my turn. Wow, the speed is pretty impressive. At speeds of up to 40 kilometers per hour, I fully focus on the track now. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster where I do the steering myself. What a pity that the wonderful natural scenery passes by unnoticed. That’s why I’m slowing down. This is a new kick, because the corners have quite an incline. I don’t really look at the landscape, but rather at the grass below me. And I’m glad to be wearing seatbelts.
Inspected thoroughly – from screw to escape route
To ensure that nothing happens to such ambivalent users like me, my colleagues regularly inspect alpine slides and alpine coasters – annually, as required by the standard! Even if it is minus 10 degrees Celsius. My colleague examines more than 50 sleds. One of the seatbelts has a small tear. It is sorted out immediately by the operator and taken to the workshop. Sharp edges or cracks in the chassis, welded seams or seat shells are also exclusion criteria.
To make sure that nothing escapes him, my colleague walks along the entire track. He checks all components, from every screw to the escape route, from the photoelectric barrier to statics to electronics. And, of course, the emergency stop switches and other safety shutdowns that become relevant in the event the sled goes too fast. The track has redundant safety systems. If one system fails, the next one takes over. Obviously, the brakes are very important. Two adult men, the expert and the operator, push down on the stationary cart at 120 percent of the nominal load. The sled must not slide down. And it doesn’t. That’s quite impressive, because more than 150 kilos weighing down on a piece of plastic at what feels like a 45 degree slope shows a strong holding force. Well, there are many hooks acting as backstops, a kind of handbrake on the track, which is mounted uphill every two-meters and is pushed down each time by the sled. If it rolls back, it gets stuck there, as tested. My colleague pulls the bob higher, the gentlemen kneel on it. The vehicle does not slide back an inch.
First the test drive, then the TÜV sticker
The sled easily goes up a few meters in altitude, pulled by a circular rope. How can a wire rope become circular? By splicing. Which means that the ends are interwoven to create a non-breakable, non-detachable connection. My colleague takes a close look at it and measures the thickness of the rope. Everything is according to specs. As a precaution, he checks the information in the operating instructions.
The inspection also includes a few test drives – even if the wind blows icy cold. It’s a pleasure to be an expert. The operator is delighted, he says, when his guests get out laughing and happy. Finally, my colleague puts a stamp on the sticker and attaches it prominently to the turnstile entrance. Now every visitor can see that this track meets the legal requirements for safe use. There is no obligation to obtain a sticker for all-weather tracks. Well then: here’s to many more happy customers!