Back in 1977, the first looping roller coaster on the East Coast was about to open at Hersheypark. However, it lacked one key ingredient: a name. Bruce McKinney, the park’s General Manager at the time, had narrowed it down to two final candidates — his personal favorite, Merry Derry Dips, and the second option, sooperdooperLooper. He went to his family for advice, and they fatefully told him to forget about the Dips and go with the Loop! I think it’s safe to say they made the right choice.
The classic Schwarzkopf ride celebrated its 40th birthday last year. And, unlike a lot of old steel roller coasters, the Looper has held up well. This is largely thanks to the park’s hefty investment into a 2012 renovation that saw a fresh coat of paint, new, shiny Gerstlauer trains, and a (very needed) magnetic final brake run added. The Looper can be found in the cluttered Comet Hollow, between dominating giants such as Skyrush and Great Bear (its a good kind of clutter). This location really adds to the ride. Surprisingly, its age doesn’t hinder it from giving a nice, pleasant ride.
The Ride Experience
I’ve always loved the rhythm of the Looper’s old chain lift. At first, and with a jolt, you crawl out of the station. But about halfway up the 76 foot ascent, the pace picks up. As the speed increases, so too does the beat of clickety-clack clickety-clack — to where it becomes a momentous droning hyping you up for the ride to come.
A vintage Schwarzkopf loop with crazy strong positive G’s that still packs a punch.
Now, back in ’77, this ride was certainly hype-worthy. Today, though, a quick glance up at the overshadowing Great Bear reminds you the Looper’s days of being a feature attraction are far gone. But that’s okay! After a brief dip-turn and a slight rise, you drop down to the ground (with a surprise pop of air, too).
Right after the drop is the loop. A vintage Schwarzkopf loop with crazy strong positive G’s, it still packs a punch. The centrifugal forces are more evident because of the ride’s lack of over-the-shoulder restraints — it’s lap bars only here. This means you might want to prepare yourself for the loop, or else be like me and suffer… unintended consequences.
When I was a kid — and still unsure of roller coasters — my dad took me on the Looper. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I ended up biting my tongue real bad during the loop. What was probably a freak accident gave me a quite-overblown fear of coasters that I wouldn’t overcome for another 4 years. Thankfully I’ve came around and seen the coaster light.
But yeah, be aware that if you don’t keep your head upright and against the headrest, the loop’s forces will likely shove it down. The loop is not rough or dangerously intense by any means, and you assuredly won’t get hurt like I did, but it is definitely powerful for the family coaster that sooperdooperLooper is.
The loop is really the only thrill on this aging classic. After you pull out of it, you head up into a turnaround and then pass back through the middle of the loop. This element is nice, but does more for onlookers than the actual onboard guests. You next go into a tunnel — which, I swear, always results in the most ear-splitting squeals from younger riders — before traversing what is likely the gentlest trick-track out there. After that tame s-curve, and a momentum-sucking trim brake, the Looper throws you into its final element: a helix. The spiraling track takes you over and around a hill, down to seemingly inches away from the ground. The earth-bound finale is fun, and the apparent proximity to the rocky ground will have you pulling your hands inside the train. The brakes follow (again, a thank you to the park for making the brake run smooth and quiet), and your trip is over.
Obviously, sooperdooperlooper is not the prime guest-getter it once was. It has been much surpassed in the thrill department and doesn’t have the highest ridership. But it is not without importance — in fact, it plays a vital role in the park’s repertoire. The Looper is a great entry coaster, an ideal next-step-up from tiny, multi-circuit kiddie coasters, such as Hershey’s Cocoa Cruiser.
Not only that, but it’s important to note that the Looper is a true terrain coaster. It hugs a hillside running along the park’s Spring Creek, with much of its course weaving through or under the cover of trees. The interaction with the nearby rides — Comet, Great Bear, and Coal Cracker (the log flume) is really cool and makes for some iconic photoscapes.
Hershey has done a great job of maintaining an aging steel coaster that many other parks would’ve replaced by now.
Unfortunately, these positives can’t completely make up for the ride’s outdated design and statistical shortcomings, but still make for a fun, enjoyable ride. There are no big, glaring negatives to the Looper — it’s remarkably smooth for its age and is very rideable. Hershey has done a great job of maintaining an aging steel coaster that many other parks would’ve replaced by now. It just can’t compare with today’s standards for thrills.
Final Rating – 5.5 out of 10
What’s your take on this 40 year old Schwarzkopf looper? Share your thoughts and stories below!