It's been dubbed the "most anticipated new ride of the decade" and the world's first "Xtreme Coaster", but until January 2002 no one knew for sure. Now the question is did X live up to all the hype?
In December 2000 Los Angeles based Six Flags Magic Mountain literally sent shockwaves through the industry when they announced a massive capital improvement package consisting of three roller coasters. It was by far the largest expansion at the park since its opening in 1971.
Six Flags Magic Mountain one of the leaders in the "thrill park industry" would be transformed from theme park to "Xtreme Park" with an impressive roller coaster collection totaling fifteen.
Debuting first would be Goliath Jr. "the new Giant among kid's coasters. Following would be Deja Vu, the next generation super boomerang roller coaster and tallest and fastest suspended looping coaster of its kind. And finally the park would introduce X, a cutting edge one-of-a-kind roller coaster designed to break all the rules.
Height: 190 feet
Max drop: 215 feet
Descent angle: 88.5°
G-force: 4.0 G's
Top speed: 76 mph
Length: 3,610 feet
Two Raven Turns, One Front Flip, One Twisting Front Flip, Two Back Flips
Number of Trains:
3 - 28 Passenger
1,600 riders per hour
January 12, 2002
Six Flags Magic Mountain
The addition of three new roller coasters in one year would earn Six Flags Magic Mountain the title for having the most roller coasters in one park. A coveted title long held by Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
X is far different compared to the traditional roller coaster. For the first time ever riders are seated in prototype vehicles that spin independently 360-degrees forwards and backwards on a separate axis. The added spinning effect creates an unprecedented and never before "don't know what to expect next" sensation.
Initial reaction to X was almost disbelief. Had the ride designer gone insane?
"You've got to be kidding, that is one sick ride!" was heard stated to the company that came up with this wild prototype following the annoucement.
The company behind this prototype was Arrow Dynamics of Clearfield, Utah, a firm that has created some of the industry's best thrill rides. Arrow is known for its many firsts and got started in the industry when Walt Disney contracted them to build some early ride systems for Disneyland. Some of Arrow's notable projects include the first tubular tracked steel coaster, the Matterhorn at Disneyland and the world's first modern looping coaster, Corkscrew at Knott's Berry Farm. So it was really no surprise that Arrow was behind this impressive prototype.
How X came to be... One day, Gary Story, President of Six Flags visited Arrow's Utah office in search of a new thrill ride. Story, disappointed with what was presented was about leave when Alan Schilke, Arrow's Chief Engineer, presented a rough computer animation at the last moment for a ride he designed called Fourth Dimension.
Schilke's design had been stashed away in his desk after being criticized by colleagues for being too extreme, one that would make people sick and believed to be impossible to engineer. Story amazed with what he saw, decided to give Arrow the go ahead to develop a scale prototype inside their Utah hangar.
Everyone at Arrow and a handful from Six Flags came to the hangar to ride the scale prototype. The prototype turned out to be a hit and Six Flags gave the green light to move forward with the project.
According to Schilke the design for the Fourth Dimension is in part inspired from the Zipper, a classic carnival ride, found on the midway at many fairs. The Fourth Dimension Coaster is far more complicated than the carnival ride and Arrow's engineering team logged thousands of hours working on the design. Far more hours than the number required to design a skyscraper. After countless hours, the design for X was finally done and construction could begin.
The quest for amusement parks to build something bigger and better has been at its height in the past several years. But building restrictions are preventing many parks from going taller and faster, so the industry is looking to the designers to come up with new ideas. X is exactly that, a new idea, that really pushes the roller coaster to a new level.
So would X live up to the expectations of being the first Xtreme Coaster?
X is literally like no other. From the sidelines it may not appear as impressive as some of the other rides out there, but believe it or not X packs a powerful punch. It is just one of those rides you're going to have to experience for yourself to completely understand.
The first thing riders will notice about X are the monster-sized trains inside the station. The 20-foot wide, 70-foot long wing shaped vehicle seats 28 passengers, two abreast in fourteen individual cars, seven positioned on each side of the train.
The state-of-the art restraint system adjusts to each rider's size and safely secures the individual for the duration of the ride.
Leaving the station facing backwards, the train rounds a turn and begins its ascent up 190 feet, before reaching the crest of the lift hill. Traveling backwards riders get an impressive, sweeping view of Six Flags Magic Mountain, and are not afforded the comfort of seeing what's to come.
Reaching the apex your heart begins to skip beats as the train disengages from the lift and finally your off. A short drop into a dip is quickly followed by a maneuver that few will forget.
Before plunging off the near vertical first drop, the seats you're strapped in suddenly flip forward placing the rider in a position few will be comfortable with. Chills run up your spine, as you realize there is nothing between you and the ground below, as you hang into the restraint disoriented by this sudden surprise. Try not to loose focus now, as the train is about to fall off a steel cliff and drop like a brick.
The first drop is insane, descending 215 feet at a near vertical 88.5-degree angle, to reach a blazing speed of 76 mph. But get this, just as you reach full velocity, your seat completes that forward flip that you began 200 feet above!
Before you've got any clue about what just happened you're back in the upright position, soaring into the first, massive 185-foot Raven Turn. Fly birdie... FLY as the train gains altitude and soars through the turn placing the riders into flying position. Look down from eighteen stories, spread those arms out and fly... uh, maybe you should scream... SCREAM!
Descending out of the Raven Turn the seats rotate backwards as they descend into a valley in the track, but don't relax as the next surprise awaits. As the train rockets into a bunny hop, the seats do a complete back flip that is filled with beautiful airtime. This flip is a perfect floater, graceful and smooth.
So now you realize this ride filled with surprises... and you'd better believe it. The intensity never lets off as the train rounds a sweeping turn high above the station and dives into one of the best elements of the entire ride.
Try combing a half-twist, with a forward flip, while traveling at a furious pace and you get one radical maneuver. And as unbelievable as it seems X pulls off this feisty element in style, leaving you so disoriented that you literally cannot comprehend the second Raven Turn that almost immediately follows.
And guess what the ride is not over! With speed to burn the train soars through the second Raven Turn, this time on the outside of the track and ascends into the final maneuver, a back flip that concludes by sliding into the brake run.
If after your first ride you've got that all down, then there's got to be a metal waiting for you somewhere.
Now don't fret if your eyes well up with tears of joy, as your heart pumps adrenaline, no worries, your not alone. There's likely twenty-seven others right then sharing the same moment.
As the train stops and restraints pop free, you'll likely follow the thrill seeker instinct and run. Of course run back in line that is for a second ride.
So did X live up to the hype? You'd better believe it... it's AMAZING. Arrow and Six Flags deserve credit for taking the roller coaster to a new level. X has without a doubt raised the bar and is positioned in a class by itself, earning its distinction as the world's first "Xtreme Ride".
Honestly, words cannot describe the sensation or experience X delivers and do it any justice. X is quite simply a minute of steel mind games that tinker with your senses, delivering a disorienting experience of fear and joy all at once.
Now that you've read this, isn't it time for you to experience X for yourself?
See more photos of X in the X Picture Gallery.
Photos and review by Eric Gieszl. Copyright © 2002 Ultimate Rollercoaster.
X logo courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain. All rights reserved.