Riding high on the soaring economy, booming housing market, and loads of disposable income that filled the accounts of almost every
American, rides were being installed like never before. So it only made sense that in 2001, Six Flags continued to wow us all with
never-before-seen rides. The unbelievable 4th dimension coaster X at Six Flags Magic Mountain. The insane V2 coasters at Six Flags
(then) Marine World and Six Flags Great America. And of course, the Vekoma-manufactured Giant Inverted Boomerang (GIB) trio of Déjà
Vu coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Great America, and Six Flags Over Georgia.
Make no mistake: the GIB’s were a jaw dropping concept.
These monsters took the boomerang coaster concept – which had been around for years and was arguably the most popular and common coaster
model in the world – and put it on steroids. Suspend the trains. Boost the sucker to nearly 200 feet. Oh yeah, and add those wicked,
totally vertical spikes.
Well, in concept maybe. But the reality of the GIB’s,
like so many other prototype coasters, was that the technology was filled to with bugs. The rides were up and (mostly) down for their
entire inaugural seasons, and for the seasons that followed.
Six Flags, being the type of parks that could afford to have a coaster down and still offer a ton of alternatives, worked to get the
GIB’s up and running, but in a questionable manner. And of course, as newer rides came along each year, the GIB’s fell back into the
shadows as a "has-been" coaster for the few visitors who were lucky enough to get a ride in when they were up and running. Of
the three coasters, the Six Flags Magic Mountain version was the only one that ran even reasonably well, and that point in itself is debatable,
depending on whose opinion you solicited.
As Six Flags entered the latter part of the decade, the
company met severe financial difficulties, closing and selling parks across the world, scaling back operations, and struggling to deliver an
acceptable return to shareholders. So it came as no surprise in 2007 when Six Flags announced that they would remove two of the three Déjà Vu’s
from the Chicago and Atlanta-based parks. Some were relieved, arguing that the rides never lived up to the hype. Others cried foul, claiming
that the rides never received proper attention to begin with. Whatever the reason, they were on their way out, and few believed they would
ever be salvaged.
Shift focus now to Silverwood Theme Park. Tucked up there in the woods of Northern Idaho was a family-owned resort park that couldn’t be
in a more different position than Six Flags. And that didn’t just go for visitor experience, it applied to the state of the business as
well. Silverwood had just come off of 4 straight years of adding new offerings, the most recent of which in 2007 was to double the size
of the Boulder Beach water park.
Truly Silverwood was in the middle of a growth spurt unlike anything the park had ever seen before, and eventually, the growth had to
taper off. Surely, Silverwood couldn’t possibly add anything new in 2008, right?
The rumors started around February 2008 in the dead of an
extra-cold, extra-snowy northern Idaho winter. Internet sites and message
boards started the chatter, claiming that the park had secured the purchase of one of the Déjà Vu coasters from Six Flags Great America.
The rumors were met with more skepticism than excitement. Surely, Silverwood wasn’t going to invest in another huge addition for the
fifth year in a row? And surely, even if they were expanding, they wouldn’t be adding a mega-coaster? And there was no way on earth
that even if they were adding a coaster, that it would be a used Vekoma GIB?
As the weeks unfolded, Silverwood confirmed the rumors, and immediately, the theme park world was split into two camps: the
minority who were excited to see such a ride make its way to the theme-park starved Northwest, and the vocal majority, pointing their
fingers at Silverwood and basically saying "good luck, suckers!" for the purchase of what had historically been such a mechanical
The subsequent months saw the coaster begin to take shape
in – naturally – the Roller Coaster Alley section of the park, just Southwest of Tremors. The green and blue track made its way
skyward, and guests began to realize that this was something on an entirely different level from anything Silverwood had ever done in
the past. In fact, when it became clear that the peak of Tremors’ lift hill was only at the halfway point of the GIB’s spike, people
knew this was one serious coaster.
The park sponsored a contest to name the new ride, and the winning entry was a fitting compliment to the earthquake-themed
Tremors coaster that raced nearby: the new ride would be dubbed Aftershock. It would stick out like a sore thumb among
the existing wooden coasters, and look like something out of a dream to drivers heading up Highway 95. Silverwood would
never be the same.
As the spring turned to summer, it became quickly apparent that the new coaster would not be ready for the peak crowds that
start arriving around the Memorial Day weekend. Rumors circulated. Something was wrong with the coaster. Silverwood was
having second thoughts. Parts were missing. None of these were ever confirmed to be true, rather, the park played it safe
and chose not to commit to a solid date, though it did "target" a July 4th opening.
After a couple of additional weeks of delays, Silverwood
opened its fifth coaster (yes, we do technically count Tiny Toot
as a coaster, folks) on July 21, 2008. And the ride was of course met with rave reviews. The first train of guests
included the winner of the contest to name the ride, along with other key players and members of the Silverwood team.
Crowds gathered to watch the ride take it’s first
journey in its new Northwest home. Slowly, and surely, the ride made its climb up the initial 191-foot spike – backward. Riders
screamed as their feet dangled below them, facing straight down toward the earth, climbing higher and higher into the sky. Soon,
they were staring straight down at the top of Tremors. Sick.
A moment of pause, and then, the release. The coaster free-falled down the spike, reaching a speed of 65 miles per hour,
tearing through the loading station, and soaring up into the massive 110-foot boomerang element. Around it went, turning
riders upside-down twice before plummeting back to earth.
Next was the giant 102-foot vertical loop – the first vertical loop at Silverwood, followed by the second spike, which took
riders straight up this time, again to a peak higher than any other in the park.
One more moment of pause, and the train and its victims experienced the entire thing again – this time backwards. As
the train rolled through the loading station again, the brakes set in, and the coaster eventually returned to its point
of origin, riders clapping, screaming, yelling and cheering. Sounds like another winner.
As the park continued through the Summer months, word quickly spread that this new ride was unlike anything most guests
to Silverwood had ever seen or experienced. And now, with yet another addition to the park, Silverwood was not only
serious about its future, but was fast becoming a legitimate dot on the theme park map.
But just how did the ride fare from an operational standpoint?
Yes, it did have its ups and downs, on a regular basis. But the difference was that when the ride did go down, crews were
quickly on the scene, getting it up and running for the guests in as little time as possible. While detailed statistics
are not made public, it is clearly safe to say that Aftershock is carrying many more passengers per day than it did in
its former life as Déjà Vu. Silverwood has shown a commitment to keeping this ride functioning as a successful
addition to the park.
Only seven years later, things had changed quite a bit in the world of theme parks. Gone were the days when bigger meant
you were in a better position for the future. Heck, gone were the days when bigger meant better. While large chains such
as Six Flags were restructuring and trying to turn a profit, a little park in Northern Idaho made yet another major
expansion, had its best year ever, and turned a “has-been” coaster in to a shining star.