GLACIER VIEW — What stretches 1,500 feet, stands almost 250 feet off the valley floor below, is made of steel and wood and has a metallic hum as you accelerate to 35 mph in a matter of seconds?
If you answered the Nitro Zip Line at Glacier View Adventures near Mile 99, Glenn Highway, you’d be right. The newest thrill ride, along with jet boat rides along the Matanuska River, is sure to get your heart racing and palms sweating.
For business partners Don Wray and Arnie Hrncir, it was a perfect marriage. Wray has owned and operated MICA Guides, a glacier tour and ice climbing guide service, for 13 years. Hrncir, who runs Hicks Creek Auction, has a perfect spot to operate the adventure company and the knowledge to build whatever is needed.
Wray’s existing business has given the new venture an advantage.
“We have the expertise of running these kinds of businesses,” he said. “We are using a lot of our existing infrastructure, our same guides, one phone number — so for a business starting out, we already had a leg up on some things.”
According to Hrncir, it was a no-brainer. With 119 acres along the Matanuska River and terrain that climbs close to 350 feet off the valley floor, the jet boat tours and zip line were a perfect fit.
“Our terrain just works for it,” Hrncir said. “Plus, you have to admit just saying ‘zip line,’ you don’t have to sell it.”
Both Wray and Hrncir see the zip line craze becoming the No. 1 outdoors attraction globally. Just to build the tower and get the cable strung and working properly took almost a year because of the high demand across the country to have professional companies come and build at your location.
“We waited in line a year to have ours built,” Hrncir said. “Everything is engineered and needs to be stamped off and approved down to the type of telephone poles and wire that is used. It was a learning process and I learned a lot.”
But it wasn’t just the growing adventure craze that attracted the partners to build a zip line. The need to have something else when the weather doesn’t cooperate got the duo thinking about what else they could offer.
Last year, they started the jet boat tours on the Matanuska, but things did not go as planned.
“Last year was a historically low year for glacier-fed rivers,” Hrncir said. “We had people standing in line, but nothing to do with them. Now the river is historically high with the snowpack, so it is just one more thing for them to do while they are here.”
Providing one more thing for the tourists and locals alike seems to be a common thread for the partners. Both would like to see the area offer more in the way of activities. Hrncir has plans to add in the Nitro Grill, a 44-foot full-service trailer that will feature the signature Nitro Burger. They want to expand the camping area and maybe add lodging. And if they can find the time, they would like to branch out into corporate retreats. Ultimately, they just want to bolster visitation to the area and provide a lot of options.
“If you have been up to Denali in the last 14 years, it is so saturated — people everywhere,” Hrncir said. “And this being a scenic byway, were trying to put this point on the map.”
Wray agrees with that thought.
“Someone might not want to drive two hours to do a three hour walk on the glacier, but we can offer the jet boat ride, glacier tours, ice climbing and now the zip line,” Wray said.
One thing is for sure, Hrncir said. “When you’re standing there on that nice platform with a wonderful view of the river 250 below you are in absolute control of your life, but once you take that one step you don’t have that control anymore.”
The partners see the zip line as one heck of an attraction that appeals to anyone willing to venture up the tower. Hrncir said they had an 83-year-old World War II veteran take a spin on the zip line last week.
“He used to jump out of planes,” Hrncir said. “He said, ‘I had 64 jumps out of a plane. I used to jump off a tower just like this. I can do this.’”