Steel Coasters vs Wooden Coasters | Weekly Topic

Roller Coaster Showdowns

Steel vs. Wood | Theme Park Round Table
For this week’s Weekly Topic I thought I’d invoke the eternal battle in the coaster enthusiast community. Like PC vs. Mac, conservative vs. liberal, Pepsi vs. Coke. Most fall into one or the other. It’s a simple question that’s been asked and discussed countless times. Which do you prefer wooden or steel roller coasters?

I would like to add a wrinkle to this classic question. What if you could only ride just one type of coaster? I know that there are many woodie fans that swear by their beloved wooden coasters, but still enjoy the extreme heights, speeds, inversions of steel coasters. Well, I’m making them choose. If they could ride exclusively wooden coasters, would they still choose their allegiance to those old amusement park staples.

Steel Coasters: State of the Art Thrill MachinesLaser - Dorney Park
I fall in the steel coaster camp, but I’ve grown to appreciate wooden coasters as I’ve started to travel more. Rides like Boulder Dash, Voyage, and Hades are amazing to say the least. Even still, I prefer the smooth ride, jet fighter-like inversions, and insane heights that steel coasters can offer. I also enjoy the many varieties of steel coasters. The last few decades have brought us a plethora of new ride types including dive, flying, inverted, and hyper coasters to name a few. With the many flavors of steel coasters comes an wide range of sensations that riders can experience.

Wooden Coasters: Timeless Amusement Park StaplesVoyage Coaster - Holiday World
Woodie fans love the classic and time tested feel of being thrown around on a rickety old wooden landmark like the Coney Island Cyclone. I credit a large amount of the love for wooden coasters a result of nostalgia as many fans grew up riding them way back when.

Many woodie fans prefer the roughness for the challenge that it brings. This was no more apparent than when Intamin’s first pre-fabricated wooden coaster debuted in the U.S. with Great Adventure’s El Toro. Enthusiasts like myself applauded the smooth as glass ride (not to mention the abundance of airtime), but wooden purists scoffed at the idea of a wooden coaster with an overly smooth ride. They claimed that El Toro much like Son of Beast, when it had its loop, were abominations and were not what wooden coasters were meant to be.

See which side of the great debate these other theme park bloggers fell on:
Responses:
News Plus Notes
Theme Park Village
A Walk in the Park
Coasterdom
What’s your take? If you had to choose one, would it be wooden or steel? Leave a comment below. Photos courtesy of CoasterImage.

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

41 Comments

  1. Although I like woodies, I am definitely a Steel fanatic. I love the speeds and height it can offer, plus some awesome inversions.

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  2. STEEL!

    CAUSE STEEL HAS MORE AIR TIME.

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  3. STEEL!!!!!

    woodies are too rough, granted El Toro is a Woodie. Steel rides have more air time, granted El Toro is a Woodie.

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  4. No question steel roller coasters. They can go so much higher and do inversion. And let me say they are so much smoother!

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  5. If you ask me steel is better for one reason and one reason only: whith steel you can basicaly do anything while whith wood theyre are some resrtictions, for instance, you can still do loops whith wood but thats bacicly the only way you can go upside down while with steel you can go in corksrews and evry type of roll along whith other types of loops. also althogh wood and steel can have the same amount of air time steel is stronger so therefore the heights (cause and effect) and speeds can be greater (a.k.a. cheaper), beacause of tubular steel technology steel can be safer than wood to ride on lanches can take place beacause theres no risk that the train will fly off the trackwhile with wood the risks would be high, whith steel there are more types of coasters you can make such as flying, inverted, and standing multi-dimmesional to name a few while whith wood theres only flying turs and normal whith wood the limmits don`t restrict to much but they have limmits that is the only reason steel is better than wood. wood is great but steel wins my vote.

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    • Bro stay in school and work on your spelling. It kind of sucks!!!

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      • Okay to point out terrible spelling, but please be nice about it or your comments won't be approved. Thanks!

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        • I never remember to check my spelling afterwards, or my punctuatiuon for that matter. thanks for pointing it out.

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  6. Yeah, I'd have to say Steel. My favorite rollercoaster happens to be wooden (Voyage), but steel is much more present in my top ten.

    Steel coasters are just more consistant than wood. Wooden coasters can have good/bad days (or even hours), and are affected a lot more by the weather than steelies.

    I also love the glass-smooth rides a good steelie gives. I'm a speed lover, and steelies are great for super-fast speed.

    So yeah, steel wins. But, I love em' all!

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  7. So much vs. Pepsi vs. Coke in roller coasters. If this were an election, steel would win in a landslide. The first six comments all favored steel, and now, make that seven. I love steel coasters, from the loops to the height to the variety… Steel coasters have it all.

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  8. No Offense woddie fans! 🙂

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  9. Steel. Steel is like a brand new 2010 Lamborghini(sp?) and wood is like a 1980's datsun hooptie. i enjoy both tho

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    • I wouldn`t say steel is like a brand new car. what about all of those old arrows.

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      • yea i should clarify i should say all the B&M's i've been on are like new cars lol! i'm not an experienced rider like most of you guys are tho. only 12 coasters!

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        • hey, it`s a start. what are your plans for next year?

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          • I live in Northern VA area and my wife and I have season passes for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Of course I want to go to Kings Dominion especially for Intimidator. Hopefully Hershey Park in April and I want to go to Six Flags in NJ!!

          • Mike, the Mid-Atlantic is the place to be. You've so many great parks within driving distance. You can easily catch up on 'lost time' in a summer by hitting Dorney, Hershey, Knoebels, Great Adventure, Six Flags America, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens. They're all within 4 to 5 hour drives.

          • I`m a bit higher up in central New York, but i can go to new england and the great escape quicker, along whith all of those other parks you mentioned.

          • Well I'm hoping to get to at least 4 this year!! I'm thinking maybe an Ohio trip next year. If you asked my wife I think I'm driving her crazy waiting for Spring to get here! lol

          • I would have to agree with the majority of you about the steel coasters, as they tend to have many major benefits over wooden, though there are also some exceptions, as in my home state of Minnesota, our theme park Valleyfair just two summers ago installed a new woodie which is not your standard "out and back" classic.

            Here is the link, as it's hard to describe, but feel free to take a look and compare it to a steelie.

            http://www.valleyfair.com/public/attractions/ride

          • Renegade looks like a lot of fun. Since it's new, it's likely a lot smoother than most woodies out there too. One day I'll make it out to Valleyfair and Mall of America in one of my coaster trips.

            Thanks for the comment Jason.

          • good idea.

  10. You know for me I can't dicide, so I will call it a tie. Steel gives more hight and speed AND invertions. They are also smoother. Tt also can do more things like launch. Wood, on the other hand, can't go as high, or as fast, but gives you more of the feeling that your going to fly off the track or that the rides going to break, which can make you feel like your going faster than you really are. I don't think people do as much with wood than they can though, like I'm pretty sure they could launch a woodie. So I think I'm going to have to break the steel streak, and call it a tie.

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    • so it`s an 8.5 for steel & 0.5 for wood. Good reasoning Tom, it`s good to see that wood still has it`s supporters.

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  11. i got florida, everything 2-3 hours north of me!

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  12. I'm going to be different than all of you and go with WOOD! I just think that no steel coaster can match up to the feel and personality of a woodie. And, well, for those of you who complain about roughness, you have El Toro.

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  13. Definitely steel, no question. Steel can launch, do many types of inversions, have 90 and 90+ degree drops, have 90 degree lifts, go 300 and even 400 feet tall, etc. Also, steel has much more types: Inverted, Floorless, Flying, Stand up(even though I hate those and would take a woodie over stand up), B&M hyper seating, etc. Wood only has traditional and flying turns. I cant believe any one would actually pick wood over steel, unless that wood is a pre-fab or the steel is an arrow looper or stand up. Steel rocks!

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  14. I would definitely say steel but a part of my reasoning is that I've never been to a park that had a great wooden roller coaster. The Beast and Mean Streak were decent in their younger days but both will rupture your pancreas now. Blue Streak is a decent older woodie as was The Big Dipper at Geauga Lake, but neither is stellar. The Jack Rabbit at Kennywood was okay. The best one I can remember being at in the Ohio/PA territory is the Blue Streak at Conneaut Lake, but I'm sure it's lost some of it's luster as that park has…Apocalypse at Magic Mountain probably the best woodie I've ever ridden but it doesn't come close to most of the steel coasters I've ridden.

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  15. Hands down, steel is the winner.

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  16. ROLLER COASTER SUCK

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    • I agree with Phil

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    • Dont you mean ROLLER COASTERS SUCK…they do I agree

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    • I AGREE WITH PHIL SO MUCH

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    • I know only stupid people enjoy roller coasters!

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      • …That's hurtful…jk
        But is it really necessary to act like 5 different people to simply say that you don't like roller coaster's?

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    • TOM WAS HERE

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    • Oh wait…they do suck…I agree

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  17. In my book there is no official winner. One is not always better than the other. Steel is innovative, fast, intense but wood can still deliver the same fun and thrills. I don't care what you might think. The purpose of a coaster is to please the crowd, provide memories, and make say "Wow" when you get off. Wood has just the potential to do this as steel. It all depends on how the coaster is designed and built. I feel like wood is misused by manufacturers sometimes. If built the right way, wood can be just as good as steel.
    El Toro
    The Voyage
    Thunderhead
    Boulderdash
    the list goes on…
    So please don't hate on wood just because it doesn't go 400ft in the air at 120mph.

    Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

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  18. while steel is more intense and obviously more popular i feel that woodies have a lot more character and are more fun to ride if your not worrying about massive drops and as a side note i think woodies have a lot of potential companies are just too scared too get sued. like son of beast was the only woodie hypercoaster even though it was more than a decade ago

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  19. woods better, just because steel is new doesn’t make it better. the wooden ones give the best ride.

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  20. Some would like to invest more up using lots of good materials.

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