PortAventura Shambhala Roller Coaster Preview

Shambhala, the new roller coaster coming in 2012 to PortAventura in Spain.
••• Shambhala, the new roller coaster coming in 2012 to PortAventura in Spain, will feature a mountain climbing theme. PortAventura. Used with permission.

PortAventura will be decidedly more adventurous in 2012 when the Spanish park unleashes Shambhala, an enormous new coaster. How enormous? When it opens, it will be the tallest (and one of the fastest) in all of Europe. Shambhala is among a batch of especially wild new roller coasters opening in 2012.

Shambhala Coaster Stats

  • Location: In the China section of PortAventura in Salou, Tarragona, Spain, about one hour south of Barcelona.
  • Type of coaster: Hypercoaster.
  • Height: 249 feet (76 meters)
  • Length of first drop: 256 feet (78 meters)
  • Top speed: 83 mph (134 km/h)
  • Cost: 20 million euros, or about $27.6 million US.

Tunnel Vision

At 249 feet, Shambhala will make its presence known. It will positively tower over its neighboring coaster, the relatively puny, 148-foot (45 meters) Dragon Khan. In fact, it will be one of the tallest roller coasters in the world. Sitting in the rear of the park, it should provide a dramatic backdrop.

The new ride will be a speed demon as well. Unlike Furius Baco, the unique launched coaster at Port Avenutura with slightly faster stats, Shambhala will use a traditional coaster lift hill and gravity to deliver its nerve-rattling speed.

How, you might wonder, will Shambhala rise 249 feet, but have a first drop of 256 feet? At the bottom of the drop, it will enter an underground tunnel. Other coasters, including Bizarro at Six Flags New England, use first drop tunnels to great effect.

Racing headlong toward the ground from such a height, the tunnel opening will appear to be impossibly small to passengers aboard the new ride. The "we're not going to make it!" illusion will add to the thrills.

Emerging from the tunnel, the coaster will soar into a series of five airtime hills, the smallest of which will be 70 feet (21 meters).

The ride will follow a sweeping out and back course that will keep twists and turns to a minimum. With no inversions and few twists, the raison d'etre for the coaster will be speed and airtime.

Head for the Mountains

Manufactured by the coaster cognoscenti at the Swiss-based Bolliger & Mabillard, it's likely that Shambhala will follow in the tracks of such stellar rides as Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Intimidator at Carowinds. Those and other B&M hypercoasters are butter-smooth (despite punishing heights and speeds) and are airtime bonanzas.

The Spanish name for a roller coaster is "montana Rusa," literally "Russian mountain." The name derives from the ride's origins as a 17th-century winter sport in which daredevils would lug a toboggan made out of ice up a St. Petersburg mountain and race down a snow-packed wooden frame embedded into the mountainside.

The montana Rusa name is particularly apt for PortAventura's new ride, which will be themed as a mountain climbing expedition. Shambhala is a mythical Tibetan kingdom that is surrounded by mountains made of ice. For mountaineers, the thrill is typically scaling the peak and reaching the summit. For the coaster, the thrill will surely be racing down the mountain after reaching its peak.