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Disney's Blizzard Beach-Combing
Legend has it that in mid-March or so in 1995, El Nino brought in a freak snowstorm that ravaged central Florida. The ski operators took light of this and decided to build a ski resort at the most affected location – Lake Buena Vista. Just a few miles off Walt Disney World, the ski resort harbors chalets for supplies, toboggans, skis and everything a winter vacationer would dream of. A few days later, Florida resumed its normal tempreatues, promting the closing of the resort, but all hope is not lost for the founders – they eavesdropped on a gator, sliding down a slushy hill, exclaiming a loud, thrilling “Yahoo!”
That April Fool’s Day, after a series of refurbishments, they reopened the ski resort, now converted into that water park of melting ice and snow from that day known as Disney's Blizzard Beach.
Let’s fast forward to several autumns ago – promotions and shelving of Christmas decorations and craft materials swamped the stores with the phenomenal, yet pretty annoying Christmas creep on hand. Even Walt Disney World joined in, with posters for the movie, A Christmas Carol, displaying at the Transportation and Ticket Center and at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom. As a Filipina-American, I developed an acquired immunity to early-bird holiday toutings and understood that the nation my parents were born in (the Philippines) just started their holiday season. I decided that going to Blizzard Beach that time of year was not only less painful in the rear end as far as crowds go, but it coincided pretty well with the Christmas creep we all have endured throughout the years. Also, I had been to the older Typhoon Lagoon a couple of times times, as well as far-flung Wet N’ Wild (off Walt Disney World, in suburban Orlando), and I hypothesized the water park Muetti and I were heading to as a more welcoming change of pace from those two parks. Having watched the part when Mickey Mouse, his friends, and a couple of kids discover the park as they sing Buster Poindexter’s “Hot! Hot! Hot!” in Mickey’s Fun Songs: Beach Party at Walt Disney World (which was filmed months after the park first opened) several times, seeing it made me want to go in the first place. I checked the weather forecast and found a decent chance of rain. We decided to trek onwards to I-4 and enter the purple gates of Walt Disney World, where this refurbished and converted ski resort is located.
Upon entering the park, I was captivated by the sights - candy canes, chalets, and sleighs decorate the entrance to a mountain of melting snow. The less-dreaded Christmas creep felt very real to me with those sights – even a picture spot of Frosty and his snowy spouse taking a picture of their little snow baby became the ire of those who want the Yuletide hoopla confined after Thanksgiving. We staked a spot where Muetti can wait for me as I explore the rides of Mount Gushmore, the centerpiece of the water park. The waiting area was perfect – under a shady spot overlooking the bobbing wave pool, Melt Away Bay.
After looking for a place where Muetti can wait, I high-tailed it to the chair lifts and headed out to Summit Plummet, at the apex of Mount Gushmore. I decided to ride it before all others due to me reaching a weight loss goal and taking a challenging class in the gym. Also, I experienced a much smaller speed slide which went straight down in Water Works at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia. As I traveled onto the high queue lines, the landmarks of Walt Disney World captivated me – I saw the rear end of my favorite ride, Expedition Everest, along with the Tree of Life, in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Sorcerer’s Hat and the Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the globular silver beauty of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, and further north, the tiny, indiscernible Cinderella Castle in the far-flung Magic Kingdom. When it was my turn to experience the 120-foot kamikaze plunge that awaited me, I was eager with very little hint of nervousness. When the Cast Member unlatched the bar that restrains me from that monumental plunge, I pushed myself, crossed my legs and arms, and started my rapid trek down, like a skier in full speed careening down an 85-degree hill. At the bottom of the slide, like many riders, I developed a wedgie which I easily rectified due to me wearing a conservative-cut, one-piece swimsuit – and that told me that I had survived the tallest water slide in America. (Insano, in Brazil’s Beach Park, clobbered the slide by 10 feet as the tallest water slide in the world, by the way. I’m a bit indifferent to the broken record, and I don’t even bother blaming the country that cranks out 15-year-old tourists coming from there to Orlando each summer and winter in forms of flag-shepherded tour groups many of us Central Florida vacationers love to hate.) I went on the slide again for the second consecutive time and developed that natural riders’ high, stemming from that high-speed plunge.
I then went onward to Slush Gushers, a triple-hump body slide. Compared to Summit Plummet, the slide was not as thrilling, but it was just as fun as riding on the back of a 90-foot snow camel and as much fun as getting a wedgie from sliding it. I also went to Teamboat Springs, the world’s longest family raft ride, by ski-lift. I rode with a few girls and a preteen boy on my first ride and the long track of curves, dips, and splashes thrilled me as well as my fellow Guests on the same raft as me. I felt like one of the kids in the aforementioned Mickey's Fun Songs: Beach Party at Walt Disney World. Only then, I felt as if the cameras were present, taping me on location, with some family on that particular raft instead of kids accompanied only by the five atmosphere characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy, if you are wondering) and as if the cameras taped us in the first decade of the millenium instead of August 1995. At the end of that long chute, our raft went idly about down a short river course, going under a shack under a sheet of melting snow. After that, we exited the ride, feeling wonderful.
Then, I walked though the dark ice cave, with waterfalls of melting snow drenching other Guests who were floating on adjacent Cross Country Creek, the park’s lazy river. I waited for my single inner tube for the enclosed slide of Runoff Rapids. I got my tube and climbed a series of flights of stairs to the awaiting entrance. Because I have gone from an obese teen who pants at the top to a much slimmer adult, I never had been fitter taking the trek upstairs. I mounted the tube, then slid through a tunnel of fiberglass and cool mountain water. It was a rush of excitement – being in the dark through curves and dips until splashing in the 4-odd-foot-deep exit pool below.
On the way to the purple slope, where racing is the key to enjoyment, I took the Cross Country Creek. As I floated through the ice cave, with its waterfalls of melting snow, I felt like I was in lazy river heaven, contemplating how it trumped the one in Wildwater Kingdom at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was so laid-back, with natural surroundings as well as the occasional shower on the way. I was lucky to not have some prankster on the bank in a red muscle shirt and khaki board shorts feign blindness and voiding on me as I floated on that lazy river just like in the videos I saw on the Web. I stopped on Flamingo Landing, off to the racing slides on the Purple Slope.
I waited in line for the tube slide, Downhill Double Dipper, and challenged a male Guest with a pot belly. We descended down the chute, with its enclosed double dips and a curtain of melting snow and a four-foot pool at the end. Luckily, it was shallow for me, and I dragged my inner tube back to the drop-off. I noticed at the end of the slide, looking at the overhead digital clocks, that I clobbered the fellow guest by 6 seconds. I exited the ride, went up that flight of steps, further up to Snow Stormers. To me, it was a completely different racing mat slide compared to most of them I have slid before, since I underwent a series of curves and dips with my abdominals on my purple mat, like a skier on a switch-back course. My mat splashed into a 4-foot pool, which I walked out, noting how amazingly shallow it was. I marched on to Toboggan Racers, which was a bit different from Nitro Racer at Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia. I hopped on to my mat, and pushed myself down the bunny slopes. I finished next-to-last, but it was fun.
I did my second time on Teamboat Springs, with some four other adult Guests, using the trail of stairs overlooking the Ski Patrol Training Camp and Tike’s Peak, both barring parents and adults like me unless accompanied by a child, that time around. I took another float on Cross Country Creek, and experienced it – from the ice cave, to the Ice Gator’s chalet where he sneezed a geyser of his snowy mucous from its chimney. I did the Snow Stormers and Toboggan Racers, both finishing third, and felt a sense of euphoria in the time of Christmas creep. I took the ski lift to Summit Plummet for the third time, and when I got to the top, the rain poured, and the wind made that torrential downpour feel like a melted-snow blizzard. (That’s what Blizzard Beach lived up to, by the way - windy precipitation!) I braved the decent down in the pouring rain, then went to Teamboat Springs by foot when the weather cleared.
On my way to Teamboat Springs, I looked at Tike’s Peak – it was not a kiddie-pool (or should I say diaper pool) area with scaled-down slides and water jets, it was a fun replica of that spot of plentiful snow where many kids play in the wintertime way further north of us. Further down was the Ski Patrol Training Camp, which included a T-Bar called Fahrenheit Drops, the water slide Snow Falls, Freezin’ Pipe Springs (a slide which concluded above the same 8-foot deep splash pool as Fahrenheit Drops - like those kinds of drop-off slides in Mountain Creek, when it was smaller, unsafe, and under the cursed name, “Action Park,” in Vernon, New Jersey), the Thin Ice Training Course (where kids walked across floating icebergs), and the much milder tube slide Cool Runners. (There used to be an attraction called Mogul Mania, shown in the Mickey’s Fun Songs video, where riders rode on inner tubes on an untracked slippery area that appeared to be snow moguls, but the park shelved it due to injuries, I think.) I found the ride as a walk-on, and rode it with some Spanish-speaking mother and two small kids.
After riding Teamboat Springs, I heard the background music, punctuated with occasional Christmas tunes (Hey, it was the Christmas creep after all, and going to that water park must had fitted that time well!), cut short, and after aeons of silence, a spiel came on, telling us to exit all the water attractions due to the incoming inclement weather. I decided to go home, feeling so euphoric riding all the attractions in Blizzard Beach. We took pictures before we headed to the parking lot, and I heard the reiterating spiel that the park is temporarily closed due the impending thunderstorm. Despite all the rain, I had an euphoric time at that winter wonderland, although it was early autumn at that time.
If you don’t mind seeing and hearing early instances of Christmas written all over a water park or if you are vacationing on central Florida turf, then I recommend the melting-ice-and-snow winter wonderland of Blizzard Beach to you. If you are four-foot-plus, then try out Summit Plummet at least once – it’s as close to religiously doing a daring task. No Disneyphile like many of you should overlook this cool mountain of aquatic activities.
- Flexible Disney
The Walt Disney World blog, by the Whiz Kid Forte herself!