Review: Vortex at Carowinds

Roller Coaster Reviews

Vortex represents an era of roller coaster history. The Bolliger & Mabillard-designed ride opened in 1992 back when the novelty of riding a roller coaster while standing was still relatively new. Today, the number of surviving stand-up roller coasters is shrinking as many of them have been removed, converted to sit-down rides, and as parks have preferred to build other types of rides. Today, Vortex is one of only five stand-up roller coasters operating in the United States. And it’s one of only three that have operated in the same location since opening.
Vortex - Carowinds Roller Coaster - Loop
As guests approach this bright red, looping roller coaster in the Carolina Showplace section, there’s plenty of opportunity to observe its relatively short 2,040 foot layout. Vortex’s drop and large vertical loop are on display, but I wonder how many people notice that the riders are actually standing the first time they see it, given that stand-up roller coasters are so rare.

Vortex: The Ride Experience

Once in the station, you board the four-across trains typical of B&M coasters. Instead of sitting however, you straddle a bicycle-like seat and then adjust the height of the horse-collar restraints that are pulled down over your upper body. The boarding process takes a good bit longer than on sit-down rides as ride operators often have to re-adjust the height for riders who aren’t quite comfortable. By the time everyone’s set, you find yourself (securely) standing-up on a roller coaster.

The train immediately climbs the 90-foot tall lift hill where you can see Carolina Goldrusher to the left and the back of the park to your right. At the top, Vortex performs the textbook B&M swooping first drop that we’ve seen on so many of their looping rides (including Afterburn). Unlike straight drops, you’re less likely to experience airtime or that stomach-dropping feeling during this kind of drop. Once reaching the bottom, the train zooms right up into a large vertical loop. The drop and loop are both pretty smooth and fun with some g-forces pressing on you during the loop, but nothing too intense.
Vortex - Carowinds Roller Coaster Corkscrew
Next, Vortex passes over its lift hill and then down to the ground before winding its way up a helix (tight, banked circular section of track). As you navigate these twists and turns, Vortex gets a little rougher. And unfortunately, you may experience some headbanging as your head comes in contact with the restraints that are over your shoulders. At the top of the helix, the train drops again and powers through the ride’s second inversion, a corkscrew. Even though it’s taken at a relatively low speed, the corkscrew is definitely the roughest section of Vortex.
At this point, I’m usually questioning my decision to ride Vortex. Thankfully, there’s only a few more banked turns to get through before you’re greeted by the station brakes. Due to the aforementioned longer-than-usual load times, expect to wait for the next train to depart while riders and ride ops negotiate safety and comfort.

My Take on Vortex

Vortex gets a few points for its novelty, but unfortunately, loses a few points for its rough ride and slow loading times. I don’t recommend Vortex unless you’re just curious and you’ve already experienced Carowinds’ A-list roller coasters (Fury 325, Afterburn, & Intimidator) and solid supporting cast (Flying Cobras, Carolina Goldrusher, Hurler on a good day, Ricochet). For me, it’s not quite as rough as Carolina Cyclone, but it’s still not a very enjoyable experience after the drop and loop.
Vortex - Carowinds Roller Coaster - Layout
Vortex is also pretty short and at the end of the day, the stand-up experience doesn’t really add a noteworthy dimension roller coaster riding like inverted and wing coasters do. That’s probably why they’re a dying breed and sister parks California’s Great America (Patriot) and Cedar Point (Rougarou) transitioned their stand-ups to sit-downs. Hopefully, Vortex will get a similar upgrade too.

Final Rating – 3.5 out of 10 (Bad)

What’s Your Take?
Have you braved Vortex? What’d you think? Leave a comment below.

Photo Credits:
The following images were used under CC. Image 1, Image 3, Image 4 by Roller Coaster Philosophy.

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

1 Comment

  1. The Vortex is terrible and the people running it apparently hate their assignment. They’ve tried to speed up the boarding process by closing the gates almost immediately after opening them and triggering the exit at 60 seconds. Literally, if you’re not paying attention when they open the gates, it’s already too late when you realize it’s time for you to get on. When we were next to ride, just after the previous riders unloaded and as the gates opened, the employee said something over the intercom that none of us could hear clearly. My 12 year old jetted to his spot along with a few others, but most people paused to figure out what was said. Only a handful of people boarded before the gates closed. That was it. A lot of parents were yelling to be able to board, but the employees utterly ignored us all. They ran the ride with those few riders. It was a hot mess of anger as parents watched their children confused on the ride by themselves. All that said, it’s jerky, painful, and short. Nothing good about it.

    Reply

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