- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Gary Rylander didn’t initially build a zip line course east of Billings to get rich, attract tourists or to have a nice place to unwind.

Like a good son, he did it so his 86-year-old mother, Beulah Rylander, could finally try zipping and check off one more item on her bucket list.

“Seriously, we built it because of my grandma,” said Gary’s daughter, Shamai Rylander, one of about 30 employees at Outlaw Canyon Adventures, which opens May 17 at 4004 Yellowstone Trail.

Whatever the inspiration, the Rylanders insist they aren’t jumping into the fast-growing adventure tourism business on a lark. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the course, which area business leaders say could give Billings a key boost to attract visitors to the area.

The six-line course is built on 40 acres of pastureland where Rylander, who runs a construction company, keeps horses. It’s near the abandoned frontier site of Coulson, full of rugged hills, pine trees and a panoramic view of the Yellowstone valley.

“We’re preserving the property,” Rylander, 55, said.

Zip lines were originally developed as tools for biologists in tropical regions to observe the plant and animal life above the tree canopy, according to the Association for Challenge Course Technology.

Now, more than 700 have been built in North America, growing about 10 percent annually, according to the trade group. In Montana, the nearest zip line is in Big Sky, and another is operating in Whitefish.

Rylander hired Minnesota-based Geronimo Construction, which specializes in building adventure courses, to build the zip lines last fall. After snow delays, four of the lines were ready for riders in April.

Experts Dave and Love Burland, who have overseen zip line development nationwide, trained the guides on proper safety so riders can feel secure and have fun.

Participants are strapped into a harness attached to a cord that’s strung between two tall posts sticking out of the landscape. Once riders are secured by a guide, they can lift their legs off the platform and let gravity take them on a scenic tour through the air.

“It’s fun to see the confidence build, and the fun grow,” Dave Burland said.

The course is limited to riders between 70 pounds and 270 pounds. The cost is $89 for adults and $69 for children. This year, the season is open through the end of September.

Depending on the size of the group, it will take two-and-a-half to three hours to complete the Outlaw Canyon course, Rylander said.

Rylander said it’s hard to predict how many customers he’ll get in the first season, but area business leaders are already buzzing about a new destination spot in Billings for visitors and residents alike.

Story Continues →