Mountaineer Kimble opens WVU's first-of-its-kind zipline canopy tour

WVU Mountaineer Jonathan Kimble christened the nation's first university-owned and operated canopy tour by ripping through a ribbon to signify the launch of the program.

West Virginia University is used to inaugurating events with a blast from the rifle of its Mountaineer mascot, but not today (May 2). Instead, Mountaineer Jonathan Kimble introduced WVU’s new zipline canopy tour with a different kind of burst.

Riding one of the ziplines, Kimble crashed through a ribbon signifying the grand opening of the facility, a part of WVU Adventure WV’s challenge course in the WVU Research Forest.

“We live in a state with beautiful and abundant natural resources and the brilliant people at this University have turned them into a classroom,” President Jim Clements said. He added that the canopy tour would also strengthen the University’s connection to the 40,000 Boy Scouts who will be coming to Southeast West Virginia later this summer to attend the Jamboree to be held at the newly built Summit Bechtel Reserve.

WVU’s canopy tour, a network of four ziplines connected to trees in the Research Forest, is the first of its kind owned and operated at a university. It’s a joint project of Adventure WV, the WVU Division of Forestry & Natural Resources and Bonsai Design, a private company that builds custom-designed zipline courses.

The course, which Student Affairs Vice President Ken Gray called a “national treasure,” begins with a 201-foot zip and ends with its longest zip, 830 feet. At the end of the course, participants must rappel 36 feet from the platform to the ground and exit the course with a hike along a nature trail.

Click below to hear Dave McGill, a WVU professor/Forest Resources Extension Specialist, describe the educational benefits of the WVU Research Forest, the setting for WVU's new canopy tour course, and talk about the unique features of the area, along with the importance of eco-tourism opportunities and the sustainable approach Bonsai Design used for WVU's course.

Throughout the canopy tour experience, participants can experience and learn about the University Research Forest. The tour guides have been trained to provide information about the trees and wildlife in the forest as well as the science, technology, engineering and math principles behind ziplining.

Using a simple math formula based on the participant’s weight and rate of speed, zipliners can determine how long it will take them to complete the course, said Greg Corio, director of Adventure WV.

WVU’s tour also includes an aerial bridge and sustainable elements that better protect the trees that hold the platforms and the environment surrounding the course.

“This facility is an educational facility,” Corio said. “The University Forest is an educational resource for students, faculty and staff at WVU.

Click below to hear Kristina Shivel, a sophomore journalism major from Huntington, W.Va., talk about her interest in training at WVU to be a canopy tour guide, how the experience affected her and what it was like giving up spring break to train at WVU's canopy tour zipline course in the WVU Research Forest.

“Along with career opportunities and opportunities like training to help at the Boy Scout course, there’s a growing need to get young people outside, away from computer screens. Here they can form some great bonds with other students and realize we have a lot of resources as a University.”

But the tour isn’t just an educational tool – it will be used to train students and others who may be interested in outdoor adventure careers, create opportunities for research and provide fun educational experiences for the WVU community. The course is also directly targeted to prepare volunteers for Boy Scouts’ Jamboree from July 15-24.

Click below to hear Paige Czyzewski, a sophomore journalism student from Philadelphia, Pa., talk about how training to be a canopy tour guide for this summer's Boy Scout Jamboree 2013 in West Virginia re-connected her with scouting and hear her describe WVU's new canopy tour.

Kristina Shivel and Paige Czyzewski, two WVU sophomore journalism students and roommates, spent their spring break training to be canopy tour guides for the Boy Scout event. But their motives were distinctly different.

Shivel from Huntington, W.Va., has ziplined but admits she’s not much of an outdoors person.

“I like to stay in my room,” she said.

She said she wanted to learn more about ziplining to “become more outdoorsy” and “get out of my comfort zone.”

Although from Philadelphia, Pa., Czyzewski has extensive experience with outdoors activities. She was part of a co-ed Boy Scout troop growing up and has worked at a Boy Scout camp the past four summers. She enjoys ziplining, climbing, rafting and rapeling and describes herself as “an extreme adrenaline junkie.”

“I draw lot of inspiration for writing from big moments of adventure,” she said.

Ziplining is the fast-growing adventure activity, according to Corio because, it’s “accessible for everybody. It doesn’t really matter your age as long as you’re willing to take a step off that platform. Anybody can do it.”

To see a video of WVU’s new zipline course, visit



CONTACT: University Relations/News

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.