I had seen videos of Skyrush before getting to the park to ride it. Honestly, they didn't thrill me. A decent first drop, a big figure-8, a bunny hop, and done. Big whoop.
It did look nice in its setting over the water, though!
Still, even watching it from the ground, I expected to like it a bit, maybe ride once or twice, then move on to other things. Firstly, I'm really not a fan of four-across seating and these trains have that. The edge seats stick out beyond the track, leaving your legs free, which looks cool, but doesn't really change the ride experience.
Secondly, the layout didn't look any better in person than it did on the videos. The first drop was tall, but didn't stay steep for very long and the bunny hops were so elongated that I figured they'd provide floater airtime at best, if that. Simply put, I was completely unprepared for what was about to happen.
Seeing the drop from the side simply doesn't do it justice. You gotta get in front of it and look at it from here before you even begin to appreciate the insanity of it. It's not just 200 feet tall, it's nearly straight down. It's not just nearly straight down, but the lift hill that takes you there is ridiculously fast and it practically throws you over the top. The front seat is good, but trust me on this when I say skip the extra half hour to wait for the front and go directly to the back of the train. This is where you want to be. The back seats on this drop provide an experience that is one of the best OMFG moments I've ever had on a coaster. Period.
So you're tossed over the hill and it's just damn near straight down and you've been catapulted out of your seat and you're going crazy fast and there's a turn at the bottom. A turn. I'm not sure what the designers were thinking, but if I'm going nearly straight down at 75mph in a vehicle without a floor, a TURN is not the next thing on my agenda. Too bad. Surprisingly, the turn is taken with grace and ease, the last time I'll use either of those two words to describe any part of this ride.
Go ahead and click the above picture to embiggen. Here's the thing: when coaster cars don't have floors to put your feet on, the general reaction is to stick your feet straight out or kick them freely. People do this on inverted coasters, floorless coasters, and they were likely doing it all the way up the lift hill just a few seconds ago on this coaster. Look carefully at the picture, though. No legs out. Every single rider has their legs tucked under their seat. Why? Because the ride is trying really hard to throw them to the moon, or at least to the next county, and human nature is to curl your legs under your chair to try to stay in the car. Of course, it wouldn't do any good, but you try. The negative-Gs here are amazingly strong and if not for the lap bar, you'd be doing your best Superman impression right now, sans cape.
From extreme negative-Gs to extreme positive Gs. Coming off that airtime hill lands you in the first of several long, sweeping turns. These are the things that made the videos I'd seen so dull, but that's because you don't get the sensation of G-forces trying to crush you into your seat like you do when you're actually on the ride. Legs begin to go numb and by the time you pull out of the turn, a bit of tunnel vision ("graying out") can happen, especially on repeat rides. It's very intense.
Remember the insane airtime hill a second ago? Here's another one, this one even stronger, and when you come over the top, there's a huge piece of steel track right in front of your head. Yeah. Somebody has a sense of humor. You don't even slow down over this one and now it's down and to the right into another mind-numbing turn full of positive-Gs.
This curve leads to another hill, but rather than more insane negative-Gs, it rolls over on its side and does a little flying camel thing. As much as I love negative-Gs and airtime, it's a bit of relief for your legs that they don't have to work to hold you into the car here... or at least that's what you think. Coming out of it, the train twists left and then right again along the centerline of the track... meaning that the train gets flung side to side with you in it. That sounds horrible, but it's very smooth and quite fun, even though you aren't entirely sure the train really wants you to stay in it. Every maneuver seems to be calculated to throw you out.
Another swooping turn full of positive-Gs brings you to a specialty of Intamin brand coasters: the bunny hop with a twist. A bunny hop is a short hill taken at high speed. It usually involves coming up out of your seat for some nice airtime. These, however, are a bit different in that the track is angled to one side coming up the hill, then angled the other direction on the way down. The crest of the hill has the transition. This happens on a lot of Intamin coasters, but those are all narrow, two-across seating trains. These are wide trains - and the edge seats are about to get batshit crazy.
This is the moment that separates those who like the edge seats from those who like the center. It also creates a division of those who like the left side and those who like the right. The experience is different for all those folks. Center-seat riders get much the same experience as they would on the others with this maneuver, lean right on the way up, pop up out of your seat, lean left on the way down. Right-edge riders, though, get catapulted over the top like a circus acrobat on a teeter-totter as the wide train flings that side of the train up on the twist. Left-edge riders get the opposite effect, riding the high side on the way up, then having their seat yanked from under them on the twist. It's all great and very intense, but you don't have time to savor it long, as another riotous airtime hill is dead ahead.
That last moment of insanely strong negative-Gs leads to a slight left turn and the brakes. Riders are breathless and giddy, some in various states of disorientation with an unmistakeable look of "dafuq did I just do?" on their faces. The other thing you notice is that the lap bars have tightened during the ride on those turns, but thankfully they ratchet back up a couple of inches on the brake run, so there's not much discomfort - even on repeat rides. I'd heard that the restraints were different during the inaugural season and that they were quite uncomfortable, even to the point of ruining the ride experience. It seems that Hersheypark addressed those issues, as I rode nearly 20 times in half a day without any problems. You know what? The 20th ride was just as good as the first. That's how you know you've got a winning coaster.
Skyrush is nestled down in a valley with the old Comet wood coaster and two other steel coasters and it has a commanding presence there - as well it should. It is one of the most crazy, intense rides in the world, with extreme G-forces, challenging turns, and one of the best first drops anywhere. It's pretty much everything I want in a steel coaster, and more. Lots more!