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Ride Profile: Viper

By on 11/08/2011

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

Ride Type: Roller Coaster

Manufacturer: Arrow Dynamics
Model/Style: Custom Looping Steel Coaster
Year Built: 1990

Six Flags Magic Mountain has a rich history of installing record-breaking roller coasters, and Viper is no exception. The park was on a schedule of adding a new roller coaster every other year. In 1984, it was the Sarajevo Bobsled, in 1986 it was Shock Wave, and 1988 brought us Ninja. 1990 was a new decade and the coaster that was about to make its debut would have people flipping head over heels – literally.

Viper was officially opened to the public on April 7, 1990. Built by Arrow Dynamics, at a cost of $8,000,000, Viper was the world’s tallest and fastest looping roller coaster in the world. It stands at 188 feet tall, is 3,830 feet long, travels up to 70 MPH while exerting up to 4 positive G’s on your body. The 2:30 minute ride features seven inversions, consisting of three vertical loops, a boomerang (or batwing), and a corkscrew. This beast took 60,000 tons of concrete and 1,000,000 pounds of steel to construct.

On a nice sunny day in the middle of summer, when the trees are in full bloom, Viper and X2 rise prominently out of the lush landscape in the southeast corner of the park. It’s kind of hard to miss them. Despite being 12 years older, Viper is still taller than its much more technologically advanced cousin, X2. Viper stands proud at 188 feet tall while X2 tops out at only 175 feet. Take note of the white lift hill you can just barely see towards the middle-right of the photo. That’s Revolution. More on that later:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

This is what the front of the station looks like. I really like this station because it has some character. The ramp leading up from the left is the walk up to the station. The arched openings on the lower-left is where the initial queuing area is. The rectangular opening on the lower-right is where the lockers were located, next to the exit. The lockers were removed in 2012. The entire second story is the actual loading/unloading area for the ride:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

The very first photo you saw above was the archway you must pass through to get to the ride. That leads to this path up to the station:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

Once you enter the station, there is a series of switchbacks that can be used during periods of heavy volume. This is nice during the summer because you’re shaded from the hot sun. It doesn’t hurt that there are TVs to keep you entertained as well:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

Up the stairs and around the corner is how you get to the loading area:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

It’s a pretty standard loading area. You load from the left side of the train and unload to the right, exiting down some stairs on the back of the station:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

I’ve never seen a ride with as much advertising as this one usually has. They used to have all of the cars wrapped in ads as well, but they tended to peel off. They were pretty ugly and people complained about them a lot:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

You can just about see all of the inversions in this photo. The lift hill climbs straight out of the station. The track banks immediately left as it starts to drop, lining you up for the first vertical loop. You bank left and drop right into back-to-back vertical loops and up into the mid-course brake run. Another left turn leads you into the boomerang, and then a right turn feeds you right into the corkscrew. As you exit the corkscrew, the track passes under the lift hill, around to the backside of the station, and into the final brake run. The track then wraps around and back into the station:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

At 188 feet tall, with an initial drop of 171 feet, this roller coaster can be a bit intimidating for some newbies. It’s no longer the fastest looping roller coaster in the world, but it is still the tallest:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

At 140 feet tall, Viper held the record for the world’s tallest vertical loop until it was surpassed by Superman Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in 2000 with a 145′ vertical loop. That will be shattered in 2013 when Six Flags Magic Mountain takes back the record with the Full Throttle roller coaster, which will have a 160′ vertical loop:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

On a clear winter’s day, when most of the trees have lost their leaves, the three vertical loops make a very distinctive design:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

As seen from the backside of the park, you really get a sense of the height difference between the first and second vertical loops – 140 feet versus 90 feet:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

This is the train after the initial loop, coming around for the double loops:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

The second vertical loop is 90 feet tall, still taller than many older coasters:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

The final two inversions are in the form of a traditional corkscrew:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

After the corkscrew, the track dips under the lift hill and wraps around the back of the station. The cars feature a 2×2 seating configuration with over the shoulder restraints. There are 7 cars per train, allowing 28 riders per dispatch. With multiple trains, and optimum operation, the coaster can theoretically handle 1,700 riders per hour:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

I absolutely love this poster and would like to have it hanging on my office wall. It used to be on display up in the Sky Tower’s Magic of the Mountain Museum and is a graphical representation of Viper’s seven inversions and how they relate to each other in height. It also has all of the basic facts about the ride itself. One thing I find amusing about this poster is that it has Bonnie Rabjohn listed as one of the park’s media contacts. At this point in time, Bonnie had only been in the Public Relation’s department for one year and was the Assistant Manager. Who knew that 20 short years later she would become the President of Six Flags Magic Mountain:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

After the ride is over, you head down some stairs and pass through this area. Although common today, Viper holds another record by being the very first roller coaster to offer an on-ride photography system:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

After leaving the photograph viewing area, you head back down the side of the station, out to the midway, passing under where the track re-enters the station:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

There used to be lockers to use while you were on the ride, but they’ve been removed:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper

Although aerial views don’t give you a good sense of the height or the inversions, they’re great for getting a general flow of the track. The corkscrews are very obvious, as is the transfer track hiding back behind the station:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Viper
© Microsoft Bing Maps

 

 

 

 

Time for a flashback in time. This photo was taken a few years before Viper was built. It had to be between 1982 and 1988. The blue circular ride you see is Baile de las Flores, a tilt-a-whirl. It was added to the courtyard in 1982 and the area was christened as Baja Ridge. The Panda Express now sits where the Baile de las Flores was located. Condor was added to this area in 1988, and removed in 1990 to make room for Viper. Since it’s not there, the photo was taken between 1982 and 1988. The Viper station now sits where you see that bare dirt, just to the right of the midway. Remember the Revolution lift hill I pointed out above? Check it out now. It’s amazing what 20+ years of growth will do to landscaping:

Six Flags Magic Mountain Baja Ridge

© Dan Goodsell

 

35 Comments

  1. Q

    11/09/2011 at 10:25 am

    This is a Great post on Viper! The only thing is you forgot to picture the Batwing element. There is great photo op in the Queue for X2.I love these updates keep it up!!!

    • Kurt

      11/09/2011 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad you like it. I apologize for the missing batwing. As I was assembling the post I realized that I didn’t have a shot of that element. My bad. However, I’ll be sure to grab one while I’m there this weekend and update the article with it.

  2. Eric

    11/09/2011 at 12:24 pm

    If you look closely at the advertising of this hair product, you’ll see that it’s from “Schwarzkopf.” Funny to see on an Arrow coaster because of how Schwarzkopf was a competitor to Arrow. I’m glad SFMM still has Viper, as it is the last of its kind. For me, it still delivers a great ride. Now that X2 is red, I only wish that Viper’s track was still its original bright orange color instead of being painted red.

    • Eric

      11/09/2011 at 12:25 pm

      And another note…if you have to wait in the queue on the first floor, look up and watch the air gate mechanism operate. Lots of fun…for a few minutes anyway… 😉

    • Kurt

      11/09/2011 at 9:21 pm

      Great catch on the sign. I’ve never noticed that before. Maybe they should have decked out Revolution with these ads. 😉

  3. Justin

    11/10/2011 at 8:31 am

    Awesome pictures Kurt! I often breeze through these rides without taking the moment to admire the engineering design and beauty they hold. Love the historic element to these profiles!

    Viper is always a great head-rattler classic. Can’t get enough of the slow, smooth corkscrew inversions.

  4. Pingback: Photo Gallery: Viper |

  5. caleb

    01/03/2012 at 10:05 pm

    This is my favorite ride profile so far! I have hated Viper for the last few years because of it’s bumpy ride, but last time I went I rode in the front, and it was m first ride of the day and it wasn’t bad at all! I have just started to appreciate Viper so this ride profile came just in time. I didn’t know it was the first ride with photography, that’s awesome.

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  8. benjamin brown

    05/02/2012 at 1:27 pm

    I was working at SFMM when viper opened. In 1988 the park was offering helicopter rides as an upcharge and used the area as a landing pad.

    Now within 30 days of viper opening it was closed for 3 weeks for modifications. First the lift chain was replaced then horizontal supports were added between the first and second loop. I remeber watching the train go through that area and you could see the track and sopports moving. One thing the ride does that is odd is the appears to gain speed. What I mean is the top speed is from the first drop and each time the ride goes downhill its slower and slower but when the train goes from the 2nd loop to the 3rd it does go faster. This is due to a miscaluculation in the design. That’s why the ride slows down after the 3rd loop in the trims. The original design had it going a lot slower.

    On a funny note, about 2 weeks before opening the ride the park had one train on the track running so they could film the commercial. At that time the contractors are busy painting the station and installing queue railing. The ride is running fine empty so they load the actors into the train for a test run and the ride cycles just fine until it’s time to go into the station but the train refuses to go. A quick check shows everything mechanical is working but still no go. A look into the PC that runs the ride now shows a “ghost” train in the station and the computer sees a potential collision and refuses to move the train. After 20 minutes they realize the painters painting the queue have painted over the electonic “eye” in the station. So while the mechanic is yelling at the contractor and the production crew is just standing around one of the park managers is on his hands and knees with a rag and a can of paint thinner trying to get the eye cleaned off. Once the eye was clean the ghost train disappeared and filming began.

    In the picture taken in the early 80’s if you look closly the left for the revolution only has a walkway on one side of the lift.

    • Anthony Stamps

      05/05/2012 at 11:21 am

      wow! reading this was awesome!! do you have more stories to tell, about other rides?

    • Alan

      08/18/2013 at 9:31 pm

      The reason for the miscalculation is that the ride is based off the great american scream machine but it had to have a smaller footprint. Because of this, all the drops are higher and steeper.

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  10. Byron Lopez

    09/15/2012 at 11:22 am

    Condor was sent to astro world I belive the one great America has is the one that was at great adventure

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  12. Nick

    12/20/2012 at 2:46 pm

    The current lockers that you have pictured used to be the Viper Gift Shop. Also sharp eyed guests might notice that a train is missing. The numbers either go 1,3,4 or 1,2,4. While working there I was told that one day the missing train was doing it’s thing when as it would renter the station there was a clunk sound following the brake sounds. It took them a couple of cycles to get that it was only that train and the sound got worse to the point that they cycled the guests off and called maintenance. They came out and since I have been unable to confirm the details I won’t repeat it here, the train was sent backstage near Ped Gate 14 and just used for spare parts. It sat next to train 3 of Flashback, my old ride.

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  15. Mike Ford

    05/09/2013 at 6:39 pm

    Something interesting about Viper is, it was also a movie star back in 1992 when it appeared in the comedy, ‘Encino Man.’ In this flick it was called the ‘Vapor’ when Stoney (Pauley Shore) and ‘Link’, the caveman rode it. Stoney explained to his buddy after he had taken Link to ‘Mega Mountain’ as the park was called in the movie that they were “riding the Vapor in reverse.” Imagine riding the Viper backwards!

    • The Coaster Guy

      05/09/2013 at 6:54 pm

      Many of those coasters have been in lots of movies and tv shows. I’ll always remember Viper for its part in Space Cowboys, one of my favorite movies.

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  18. Alan

    08/18/2013 at 9:25 pm

    Great post of viper. I think you could have gone about it’s sister coasters and how this ride was uniquely made for the area at six flags which is why it has it’s records.

  19. Rosie

    08/20/2013 at 10:45 pm

    Long may The Viper Reign! IMPO It wouldn’t be SFMM without it. My first ride was with my friends at night, (this is when they first introduced Batman the Ride) and we had a fantastic view of the fireworks. This is one of my favorite classic rides and I had a lot of fun memories. I seriously hope my daughter will be tall enough to ride this incredible coaster when we go this September. 😀

    7.5

  20. Scott C.

    08/21/2013 at 7:38 pm

    Just went on Friday. Viper is some good old fashioned “old school” fun. It amazes me that we were able to ride this twice within 15 minutes, at peak time in the park. Walked on within 2 minutes, walked back around, and back on within 2 minutes. It took longer to walk to the station, than to actuall get on the ride.

  21. Leandro The Freaky

    04/07/2015 at 2:59 pm

    My heart beats faster everytime i remember how long i lived willing to ride this, and 2 weeks ago i made this long-time dream come true. Viper was simply incredible to ride on. SFMM gotta keep it forever.

  22. dylan

    10/14/2015 at 6:06 pm

    Does Viper throw your head around and hit the cart? That’s what a few people have told me, I’m thinking about going on it.

    • The Coaster Guy

      10/14/2015 at 6:16 pm

      It depends on how tall you are and where your head lines up next to the OTSR. I’m about 6’1″ and my head gets smacked pretty good if I don’t keep it tight against the headrest.

  23. Drew

    11/26/2015 at 5:47 pm

    Went on Viper last month. It’s an oldie but goodie. No wait just walked up the queue. Rode at night in front row. Good times!! Great view of X2 and surrounding area from top of lift hill. I found it a little jerky at times and my head did bounce around a bit, but lots of fun still.

  24. Raymond Aber

    04/22/2016 at 3:17 pm

    I was the L.A. County Special Deputy Inspector that did all the Field Welding.
    I was in a cage above the highest loop when a 6.7 earthquake it in Santa Clarita in 1990.
    and I’m still here to talk about it. I in the cage was tossed around in the air and the crane almost tipped over at a couple of instances. When it finally stopped I clicked on my radio and I heard the news.

  25. Pingback: Is the Viper Roller Coaster Getting Scrapped at Six Flags Magic Mountain? - The Coaster Guy

  26. Suzanne Taylor

    10/11/2016 at 4:27 am

    I hope that the rumor of Viper’s impending removal is false. I have not had a chance to ride it yet. My home park is Six Flags Great America,and my favorite ride there is Shockwave,taken out in 2002 and in storage,but slated to return there after updates. Keep Viper!

    • The Coaster Guy

      10/11/2016 at 7:06 am

      I got an email from the park almost immediately after posting that basically telling me that it’s not going anywhere.

  27. Michael

    01/26/2017 at 11:41 pm

    Great post Kurt I really hope Viper is here to stay for a long time it is definitely one of my favorites.

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