VAIL – There are at least two good reasons to visit Vail in the summertime. One is that parking, which runs $25 per day during ski season, comes free. The second is the chance to bounce, balance, coast, climb, slip, slide and soar at Vail’s Epic Discovery.

This nature and adventure park lies at the scenic summit of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. To the north rise the craggy peaks of the Gore Range. To the south towers Mount of the Holy Cross and the Sawatch Range. Below, grass-covered ski trails descend in both directions. They look far steeper now than they did when I had a pair of skis attached to my feet.

For paramours of the peaks, an observation deck offers interpretative placards identifying the summits. A pair of short, self-guided trails feature view finders and story stakes. The Walking Mountains Science Center runs the Discovery Center yurt and leads short nature walks in the area. Those who want to see more can book seats on a four-wheel-drive mountain tour.

While nature knowledge can stimulate the brain, most of us venture here for Epic Discovery’s brain-numbing, adrenaline-propelling adventure offerings.

Kids can do aerial flips on the bungee trampoline and wannabe rock jocks of all ages can tackle one of 18-routes up the Paramount Peak Rock Climbing Wall.

There’s summertime tubing down a pair of Teflon-slick, plastic-matted courses. The Marmot Mini Tubing course was designed for tykes while the adult-friendly Eagle’s Nest Tubing Hill offers screaming slides down an incline that looks steeper from the top than it does from below.

For those of us needing to feed our Indiana Jones fantasies, Epic Discovery offers three aerial challenge courses with rope-dangling obstacles such as swinging bridges, swaying logs and cargo nets to negotiate, all strung acrophobically high off the ground.

The Pine Cone Course caters to kids as young as five. The Gore Range and Holy Cross Courses offer chains of wobbly elements at various levels of height and difficulty. Designed to test strength and balance, they make many of us wish we’d spent more time in the gym.

One of the most popular activities is the Forest Flyer, a mountain coaster that plunges participants down the mountainside on elevated tracks. The ride reminded me of a white-knuckled sprint down Independence Pass with my wife driving, except here I had my own brakes to control.

Ziplines have proven to be popular and Epic Discovery offers three options. There’s the Little Eagle designed for youngsters. For older folks, the Golden Eagle Zipline offers a 1,200-foot zip down the slopes. With four participants released simultaneously on parallel cables, riders have the thrill of racing wives and friends to the landing.

The final zipline is the Game Creek Canopy Tour, which one employee called “a zipline on the Vail scale.” The three-hour endeavor includes seven lines stretching nearly two miles across Game Creek Bowl. The longest and tallest extends nearly a half mile in length with zipsters soaring over 30 stories above ground and trees. At speeds reaching 60 mph, one’s face feels like a dog’s with its head out the window at freeway speeds.

After an adrenaline-laced day at Epic Discovery, I returned to Vail Village and discovered a third reason to visit in the summertime. Its bars and restaurants offer the same great food without the après ski crowds.

Vail’s Epic Discovery is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through Labor Day and Friday-Sunday from Sept. 8-Oct. 1. Pass prices, which include the scenic gondola ride, vary from $54 for a limited children’s pass, $94 for the Ultimate Adventure Pass, which includes nearly everything but the canopy tour, and $199 for a Game Creek Zipline Tour pass, which includes the canopy tour. An extra charge applies for the 4×4 tours and the Golden Eagle Zipline. Scenic gondola rides only cost $36, with one child traveling free with each paying adult.  Advance tickets for all may be purchased online at