The Browne Center

Want to start your own ropes course?

Want to start your own ropes course? Consider this…

A quick resource guide by Tara Flippo, Browne Center Challenge Course Manager

August High Ropes Photo 2

We frequently get questions at The Browne Center about what is required to start a ropes course.

Considerations include:
    • Site selection: for pole course? Tree course? Is there room to expand course after initial build?
    • Access issues including (trespass) and clients with mobility issues (e.g. pavement vs rugged trails, accessible toilets & challenge elements)
    • Multi-purpose course? Serving different audiences? Needing to be stowed (e.g. because the space doubles as a sport/rec facility)?
    • Budget for installation, equipment (ropes, helmets, harnesses, etc), maintenance, and expansion?
    • Finding a qualified vendor (ACCT’s Preferred Vendor members) to build your course.
    • Who will be working on the course? Full-time staff versus per diem? What training is required? What will ongoing training and skills verification look like?
    • Who is the point of contact/decision maker? Is this person familiar with the challenge course industry/standards?
    • Who are the course users? What programming/type of course would support the program goals (low vs high, dynamic vs static, indoor vs outdoor)?
    • If wanting a high ropes course; what are your state’s regulations (if applicable) and what insurance is required by your insurance carrier? For example, MA ropes courses fall under amusement park standards and must be inspected and licensed by state inspectors.
    • What policies and procedures need to be created to open the course? What communication needs to occur for course users (in particular if users are underage)?
Do a Self-Assessment…

In addition to doing a thorough self-assessment on the above considerations, I recommend seeking out grants/funding from key stakeholders and partnering with a reputable vendor to get a cost estimate & guidance on where to start.  Don’t go with the cheapest vendor.  Make sure that they have a good reputation and experience with building what you are looking for.  To find a vendor: join ACCT (http://www.acctinfo.org/) for current standards and qualified vendors.

Furthermore start small and low….

A few low ropes course elements can tell you a lot about how you will want to use the course, how your participants interface with the course, and any challenges with the space.  In addition, low ropes are typically easier for the administration and concerned parties to get behind.

A Reminder…

You don’t want to overbuild at the start because once built, you must maintain (annual course inspections by a qualified vendor is the national standard) and keep staff trained.  You can always add elements as you go based on need or have a larger plan that you phase in over multiple years.  Once your course is up and running, keep a strong relationship with your installation vendor for updates and annual inspection.e,

The Browne Center has been providing innovative experiential learning programs since the early 1980s. We provide a wide range of programming from comprehensive trainings to shorter one-day sessions. Our learning programs evolve to meet the needs of our clients and our diverse client base allows us to draw upon best practices from a variety of disciplines and remain sensitive to specific needs and outcomes.

Creating a dynamic program based on your group's specific goals is our approach with every single client. We can provide an action-packed program to meet your needs – whether you are coming together as a new group, integrating new members, building positive group relationships, addressing specific behaviors, or striving for performance excellence.