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By Kim Humphrey
Posted Jan 04, 2019
Posted Jan 04, 2019
One of the best things about my job is getting to meet local entrepreneurs, learn about their business, and help them grow and thrive. I recently had the opportunity to get a sneak peek of Summit Ropes, a new, one-of-a-kind indoor ropes adventure park that is opening this month in Loudoun County, Virginia -- purported to be the largest indoor ropes course in the U.S.!
The owners, husband and wife team, Dan Kasabian and Amy Stuart, are outdoor enthusiasts with a shared passion for rock climbing, having summited some of the highest mountains in the U.S. Summit Ropes is an outgrowth of this passion, an entrepreneurial quest to make the thrill and adventure of climbing accessible and fun year-round for area families.
Dan's enthusiasm as he led me around the (still under construction) facility was palpable. He explained that they aimed to bring the "outside inside" with a design based on one of their favorite hiking locations, Zion National Park in Utah; in particular, the iconic Angels Landing rock formation. As someone who is not an avid hiker or outdoor enthusiast, I admit that I had to 'Google it' when I returned to the office!
The pair originally envisioned a wood design akin to outdoor courses, making it look as natural as possible, but had to change course due to fire code restrictions. They worked with the only firm in the world capable of building this type and scale of course for indoor use, hand-picking every element, challenge and detail to make their vision come to life -- an indoor facility that feels as close to an outdoor adventure as possible.
Natives of the Loudoun County area themselves, and having four boys between them ranging in age from 12 to 17, Dan and Amy understand the hectic pace of life for families in this area. They wanted to create a space where families can come to have fun and connect with each other, while also developing physically and mentally by working through and overcoming the challenges of the course. They put a lot of thought into the whole experience, providing free coffee and flavored still and sparkling water, free WiFi, free lockers to hold belongings, and multiple comfy seating areas on both the main and mezzanine levels -- all with a view of having families spend quality time together without feeling 'nickel and dimed' the whole time.
The 16,550-square foot facility is divided into two ropes courses: Scout's Landing, a kids course for little ones between the ages of 4 and 9, and Zion Summit for adventurous children as young as 7 (who meet minimum height requirements) through adults.
Scout's Landing Course for Little Climbers
They use a Via Ferrata climbing system comprised of a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically fixed to the 'rock'. Climbers are attached to the cable via a full-body climbing harness and smart belay system, ensuring they stay safe at all times. One of the unique features of the facility is the capability to transition seamlessly to the large rock wall from the ropes course and vice versa.
During my visit, Dan was kind enough to offer up a few of his staff members to do some climbing so I could get a better feel for the experience without having to actually harness up myself (did I mention that I'm not a fan of heights?). All of their staff members are adults who are passionate climbers themselves and are specially trained in coaching participants through the challenges and making sure they stay safe. Dan took care to mention that you will not find teenage staff here with their noses in their phones barely paying attention.
They talked me through the elements as they proceeded, demonstrating what it's like if you stumble or fall (not bad, as you only drop back a few feet into a seated position supported by your harness - I may actually be able to handle this!) and what they do if a climber gets stuck on or freezes on an element. They stressed that their aim is to give climbers strategies and techniques to conquer and overcome versus them giving up and having to be rescued (though they certainly have the capability to do that, too). They want participants to come away feeling more confident and energized than when they started.
Summit Ropes expects to open later this month. In addition to climbing sessions, they will offer birthday parties, corporate team building events, field trips, organizational outings, and special events (Dan mentioned a potential "Climb and Wine" - I'm totally in!).
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