5. Storm Runner – Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)
A fair judge of substance when talking coasters can come from asking “if this ride was built today, would it still be marketable? Could you launch a new theme park on the back of this ride?” Make no mistake: at 16 years young, Storm Runner epitomizes this concept. To say the multi-looping launch coaster was “ahead of its time” is a gross understatement; aside from the use of the Intamin’s now-retired flywheel propulsion mechanism, Storm Runner remains the titanic trendsetter it was when it opened – only now with improved restraints.
4. Phoenix – Knoebels Amusement Resort (Elysburg, PA)
It goes without saying that any Pennsylvania coaster list is incomplete without America’s Sweetheart: the shining symbol of preservation – Knoebels’ Phoenix. Its “Tortoise and the Hare”–like ascent to the top spot on Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards Wood Coaster Top 50 came with great fanfare, and while the subject of the awards remains as tense as ever within in the community, Phoenix‘s eventual bow at the precipice highlights how certain traits – like painstakingly maintained Philadelphia Toboggan Company 3-bench trains with buzz bars and no seatbelts – have appreciated handily in value. Being part of the same operation as a commercial lumber yard helps too.
3. SkyRush – Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)
Skyrush over Phoenix will garner some criticism, so for those feeling discomfited, go ahead and look at these two as a tie. As much as we enjoy controversy for clout, it just came down to the outrageous nature of Skyrush, and the way that its new neighbor in Candyland (or whatever the area is called) accentuates that. I’m not going to tell you that Skyrush is a pleasant or re-ride-able experience, but there’s no understating the awful majesty of this roller coaster equivalent of an intercranial hemorrhage.
2. Phantom’s Revenge – Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA)
Sometimes, the best coasters aren’t really planned; they just sorta happen. Kennywood did not set out to build Phantom’s Revenge – the set out to build an Arrow multi-looper that conveniently broke the world drop-height record with the help of natural terrain. Intentions were divine but results were disastrous, and inside the decade-long tenure of Steel Phantom a plan was hatched to salvage the functional aspects of the ride while chucking the rest. The result was Phantom’s Revenge, an unorthodox non-looper that recycled the original coaster’s rolling stock (through which we were gifted the miracle of Revenge‘s minimalist, side-mounted lapbars) and the retention of roughly half its trackbed. Inversions that developed stress fractures in record time were exchanged for the Indian peacock tail of fan turns and a vivacious succession of small airtime hills, and riders have not yet adjourned from singing the praises of “New Phantom“.
1. Ravine Flyer II – Waldameer (Erie, PA)
Sorry to be tardy to the party – Ravine Flyer II has probably been lit this entire time and we just didn’t know until late summer 2020. Like Phantom’s Revenge before it, Ravine Flyer II was the cosmic good fortune of fabulous terrain potential and the sheer audacity of designers and park management. Nothing says “the planet aligned for this to happen” quite like a public road stapled with a bridge of coasterstuff and festooned on either side by Gravity Group peaks that purposefully position patrons lakeward – and what even is that triad of airtime hills following the 2nd largest drop? A triumph, my dears. The whole ride, a triumph for the ages.
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