Without a theme park the trip from Germany to England is somehow too long and too boring. Since I was already visited Efteling just before Christmas and I had to go through the winter hustle and bustle without a ride on the Bobbaan, I drove to the Belgian coastal town of De Panne, where Plopsaland De Panne holds its Winter Plopsaland Event for more than 10 years.
The main reason for the visit was the roller coaster Heidi – The Ride, which I could only visual inspect during my last visit. As the theme area of the wild sleigh ride was still under construction, the area resembled a gray concrete complex rather than a colourful Swiss village. I was also very curious about the restrictions during the park’s winter operation.
The first impression of the event was quite positive. The park is very nicely decorated and even has a Christmas plop at every corner of the park. However outside the entrance, this design gets very repetitive. On the other hand, the number of rides in operation is significant. Winter events are nice and good, but if nothing is in operation you can skip the event. In the morning, it truly looked like that. In the afternoon, all rides – with exception of the park’s log flume – where in use. Even the Star Flyer welcomed its guest. Due to the high winds, the ride is kinda scary.
From the top you have a good overview of the region, the park and the wooden roller coaster Heidi – The Ride. By the late afternoon, the queue on the roller coaster was very short, therefore it was not a problem to try each of the 12 seats; some even double or triple. Towards the evening, the ride became more popular and the park noticeably fuller.
In a short dip you leave the station, whereupon the lift hill of the ride is climbed. Once the maximum height of 22m reached, you immediately plunge down the curvy first drop. Close to the ground, you are now swerving from one side of the ride to the other in a wild s-curve manoeuvre. This is followed by a double-up element with a double-down element ensuing. Unfortunately, the three hills here are very shallow and the airtime is quite low. Back on the ground level you immediately shoot up into a turnaround where the banking of the track increases steadily before you fall down to the ground. Rushing over hill and dale the track is now running parallel with the already experienced one.
After two fairly high hills follows a slightly twisted S-curve hill, which flows into a small double-down. In a tunnel, you now whiz over a very, very small hump before you are pushed to the right side of the in a small curve. This is followed quickly by another very flat hill, before approaching in a short left-right corner combination the break run of the ride.In the same building as the station, you quickly cross the transfer track for maintenance before reaching the station in a 180 ° turn. If you are lucky, say goodbye to Heidi and her friend; during my visit the screen was not in use.
Well, how should I judge the roller coaster?! After my first rides I was really underwhelmed – it took a very long time until I was ok with the coaster. At the same time, I do not want to blame the not yet retracted condition of the ride in the morning, as in the afternoon the ride was quite similar. For me, the ride is a little bit too short, which is also due to the fast paced sections near the ground-level, especially at the end of the ride (which I don’t really like). After a great first drop and the amusing S-curve, the ride loses its pressure. The ride catches itself somewhere in the middle and offers plenty of fun in a series of airtime hills, but before you know it the finale of the ride already starts.
But one thing must be left to the coaster: It just looks gorgeous and it fits the park’s audience perfectly. The wild sleigh ride is indeed family friendly and due to the fast dispatch – which is also due to the interestingly placed luggage rack (a chest in the middle of the exit platform) – family members don’t have to wait to long, when another one is currently riding. Overall, Heidi is a great ride for the whole family.
As far as the winter Plopsaland is concerned, I can fully recommend it. If the weather cooperates, you can easily spend a few hours with no waiting times within the whole park. In conjunction with the swimming pool Plopsaqua you can spend with ease the whole day in De Panne.