Twenty-Year Top 20: The Best Coasters of 2001

10. Trace du Hourra – Parc Astérix (Plailly, France)

Kicking off our Top 10 is one of the more unlikely additions of 2001: a bobsled coaster. It had been seven years since the last new Mack Bobsled had opened (and only Knoebels’ Flying Turns has opened since), and it’s the only operating Mack model not themed to snow or sledding (the theme is even more uncanny than the ride itself – the story tells of a cave man who learns to walk and then excitedly runs about town to tell his friends, the run thereafter being referred to as “La Trace du Hourra” – literally “The Trail of Hooray”). Pacing on this Bobsled is faster than other Mack’s, and it’s also taller than your average Bobsled – even the ride’s operations (usually an eyebrow-raising 5 trains at a time) are noteworthy.

9. Cornball Express – Indiana Beach (Monticello, IN)

This peculiar, late-era CCI concoction will draw you in with its buzz-bar PTCs and reward your curiosity with a winning mix of laterals, negative Gs, and headchoppers. Rides built on sheer determination are often some of the best success stories, and this Indiana Beach twister is no exception: suspended over existing midway and rides, Cornball Express isn’t particularly tall and seldom touches the ground, but the pacing and forces are enviable. It’ll leave you in the brake run feeling satisfied but still puzzled over what exactly a “cornball” is.

8. Nitro – Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ)

We’re anticipating some hate for not putting Nitro in our Top 5, but for us Top 10 is a generous placement. B&M Hypers can sometimes feel like “too many, too similar, too close together” – with Nitro, we miss the squirreliness of the prototype B&M Hypers, but also feel that improvements to the formula have been made in the last twenty years, leaving Nitro somewhere in the middle for us. While impressive in size and scope, nearby rides like Apollo’s Chariot and Candymonium seem to do more with less and feel better maintained.

7. Talon – Dorney Park (Allentown, PA)

Not content with layouts that would bear too much resemblance to nearby inverts Great Bear, Batman The Ride, and Great Nor’Easter, Cedar Fair made some interesting choices with Talon. While inversions pay the bills like always, Talon has some clever non-loop highlights, like the sharp, ground-hugging turn before the corkscrew and its signature post-Immelmann helix over the entrance plaza.

6. Titan – Six Flags Over Texas

We know what you’re thinking. “Titan? Over Nitro? No way.” Hear us out: Titan may not be a totally custom ride, but along with its fraternal twin at Magic Mountain, Titan is an experience that distinguishes itself from other hyper coasters. Yes, there is an obvious lack of airtime. Yes the positive G’s are enough to turn us to mush – but how many other rides can say the same? As touched on with Nitro, traditional hyper coasters are becoming more common by the day; they’re certainly a more popular approach than what Giovanola did with Titan, but now we have eighteen B&M Hypers out there and just two Giovanolas. We’re not saying that we like Titan better than all B&M Hypers (or even necessarily most B&M Hypers), but we are saying that after a dozen or so of B&M’s approach, Titan really stands out for providing an experience that’s much less common.

5. Batwing – Six Flags America (Upper Marlboro, MD)

Vekoma may finally be getting the credit they deserve in the Flying Coaster department thanks to Phantasialand’s F.L.Y., but the Dutch already had a strong handle on the idea twenty years earlier. Learning from the many (many) mistakes of their prototype, the 2nd whack at a flying coaster yielded a strong ride with improved operational performance. Six Flags America has their troubles with maintaining Batwing (and with Firehawk gone, there are plenty of rumors that the remaining Flying Dutchmen aren’t far behind), but many who’ve ridden would agree that it took B&M until Tatsu to build a more satisfying Flyer.

4. Wildfire – Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO)

If Kumba is the traditional looper perfected, then Wildfire is the travel-size version. A quick run time despite its awesome proportions, Wildfire checks an impressive number of boxes in just 3000ft of track: a 155ft drop with massive backseat airtime, forceful inversions, blazing-fast transitions, excellent topographical positioning – the list goes on. The only pity is that Herschend parks require that you exit and re-queue for rerides even if there’s no line.

3. Expedition GeForce – Holiday Park (Hassloch, Germany)

In 2000, the debate between Millennium Force and Superman: Ride of Steel was seismic – there was no general consensus on what was the best Intamin. The following year, however, the unassuming Rhineland-based Holiday Park ended the debate with Expedition GeForce: a pipe dream, mega coaster tour-de-force. While not a true hyper by the American definition, the 53m tall coaster stuns riders with a smorgasbord of airtime and its near-vertical, quarter-twist first drop – still one of the best on any coaster.

2. Aftershock – Silverwood (Athol, ID)

The dizzying horror of Vekoma’s Giant Inverted Boomerangs feels exactly the way it did when they opened – at least, for those fortunate enough to snag an opening year ride on any of the troubled first installations. After Six Flags Great America’s Déjà Vu was sold to Idaho’s Silverwood and reconfigured, the park debuted Aftershock: a mean, green, reliable machine. A true test of timelessness for coasters would be if any given park could open the ride tomorrow and still pass it off as groundbreaking; if the lingering impact of the product line is any indication, there’s no doubt that a Giant Inverted Boomerang still leaves its victims speechless. A combination of hyper coaster stature, forward and backward inversions, and forward and backward vertical drops – all on an inverted coaster – it’s basically a Y2K coaster buzzword stew, and Aftershock still leaves riders trembling and buzzing like it’s 2001.

1. Phantom’s Revenge – Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA)

You can’t always just “decide” to build the best coasters – sometimes the stars have to align. Sometimes you need luck. Kennywood’s Steel Phantom was certainly one of Arrow’s more troubled rides (and that’s saying a lot), but the ride on a conceptual level was a sturdy foundation for a future classic. Morgan Manufacturing was tasked with giving Kennywood a slightly more conventional hyper experience: trade the loops for airtime, keep the quirks. The existing chassis would be reimagined with side-mounted ratcheting lap bars (the original looping coaster train design didn’t allow for floor-mounted lap bars) and the new coaster track would hurl riders into a fan curve before threading them back through Thunderbolt, around the Turtle, and into a spine-shattering sequence of shallow airtime hills taken at tremendous speed. Nothing about this ride feels like it was originally meant to be designed this way, and yet the results are sublime – despite the odds, Phantom’s Revenge remains the country’s most remarkable hyper coaster.

We hoped you enjoyed our trip through 2001’s coaster landscape! Be sure to follow our social media channels and weigh in on this and other articles! Until next time!

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