Intamin Then vs. Now

Liechtenstein-based coaster manufacturers Intamin have long been at the top of the game when it comes to the best coasters in the world. I remember when I first really got into this hobby, back in 2004, and Intamin dominated the charts when it came to world-beating, insane coasters. They were building the tallest, the fastest, the coasters with the most airtime, the most exciting coasters that were all the forums were in a buzz about, that coaster enthusiasts were travelling across the world to ride. They were THE coaster manufacturer to beat: where B&M were all about consistent quality and reliability, Intamin were the ones pushing the boundaries of what coasters could do, and as such broke many a record whilst they were at it. 

If you're a bit of a veteran coaster enthusiast, I'm sure you'll agree that it's been strange this past decade seeing Intamin knocked off their throne a little. Mack with their insane innovation, RMC with mad new elements, Vekoma completely redesigning themselves, B&M...doing what they've always done but still being excellent at it. I wanted to spend a little time today to get some thoughts down on paper about this whole phenomenon as it's fascinated me since I rode Velocicoaster back in May. And before we dive in, let me clarify this is just a thought piece and my opinion on how the manufacturer has changed, and what I would consider to be main driving influences. Let me know in the comments if you agree/disagree/etc!

So I guess the big shift came with the introduction of that chunky new-gen Intamin track. Before it was that early noughties, skinner-than-B&M/sleeker-than-Vekoma tri-track that we'd associate with Intamin. That and the fact that their coasters just...won every award ever going anywhere. I remember those 'most extreme thrill rides' documentaries showcasing the likes of Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka, my young enthusiast mouth drooling at the thought of one day riding. The coaster enthusiast forums were the same - all you'd ever hear about was Superman - Ride of Steel this and Expedition GeForce that. These were the creme de la creme of the coaster world, the epitome of early noughties coaster perfection. 

And arguably it stayed like that for a long time. Hell, a quick Google search of 'best roller coasters in the world' and these early noughties Intamins STILL pop up to this day, after twenty years of coaster innovation. For me these were the record breaking years - it was the first time we'd ever gone taller, faster, more airtime than ever before. And we kind of exhausted ourselves in doing that as an industry. There's a reason why the height record hasn't been beaten since 2005 - once you've spent all that money into developing something that can go that high, you don't have a lot left to do much else with. And look, I love Kingda Ka, but given the choice between riding that and something that just...does more, I'll pick the latter every time. 

Let's talk about RMC for a minute, because I feel like they were a bit of a cultural reset when they hit the scene in 2013 with Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City. This was something none of us had ever seen before. Previously, manufacturers all kind of did they same thing, similar elements, similar layouts, some did some things better than others and each had their signature thing they were known for, but RMC came along with a product that was a complete departure from anything we'd seen before. RMCs move in ways we've never experienced, inflict forces we've never felt before, throw our bodies around so chaotically that we don't know what way is up and every coaster manufacturer seemed to sit up and pay attention. I'd go as far as to say that a lot of the more 'out there' elements and focus on mad airtime moments we see in modern day coasters are a direct result of what RMC did, and whilst I'm not the biggest RMC fan girl I can thank them for that. 

The early 2010s for Intamin, on the other hand, was a bit of a flop era. Not that what they were putting out was bad, not by any means. SkyRush and Formula Rossa are still some of my favourite coasters to date, but they just weren't innovating like RMC were, and for a manufacturer that had been 'best in class' for the best part of a decade this was a huge shift change. It was almost like they'd gotten comfortable delivering really great rides but other manufacturers were now leaving them in the dust in terms of what unique, new experiences they could bring to the table. If you wanted a solid launch coaster, you'd still go to Intamin of course, but if you want something never seen before you'd likely look elsewhere. SkyRush attempted something new but infamously the restraints were not fit to provide comfort against such intense forces...more development was needed. 

And I'd argue it kind of stayed that way until Soaring with Dragon at Hefei Sunac Land in 2016. Here was the first time in ages we'd seen something really daring and different from Intamin - huge swooping elements, incredible looking trains, insane airtime moments and an innovative layout. This was improved upon again in 2018 with Hyperion. This coaster feels like an upgraded version of those classic Intamin airtime machines from the early noughties but delivering against that modern hunger for inversions and insane ejector airtime moments. Culminating in Velocicoaster - what I believe to be Intamin's magnum opus. 

Velocicoaster for me represents fifteen years of Intamin clawing their way back to their former glory. Of experimenting and tweaking and testing and trying new things and going back to the drawing board until finally pulling it altogether into one, glorious, incredible rollercoaster that once again put the manufacturer on the map to compete in the modern era of bizarre coaster innovation. 

Have I just rambled on for *counts* seven paragraphs to essentially say 'Velocicoaster is really good' again? Yes, yes I have. I've come to that realisation whilst literally writing this sentence, but I'm not sorry, it's been swirling around in my brain for a while and I needed to get it all out, so I might as well drag you all along for the ride. 

Weirdly, Kondaa(aaaaaa) at Walibi Belgium which opened in 2021, despite its bizarre non-inverting cobra roll and other such modern elements, rides VERY much like one of those old school early noughties Intamin coasters, which I thought was an odd choice. Velocicoaster is so innovative and does things so differently, so for Kondaa, which opened just a few months before to NOT do that, is just strange. And look, those old school Intamins still kick a lot of ass. I have a lot of time for any kind of mad airtime machine and for me Intamin are the kings at it (sorry B&M). Intamin could have carried on just doing what they do best but I love that they've tried something new and continued developing to keep up in this insane, ever-changing industry, and I cannot wait to see how the likes of Toutatis at Parc Asterix ride! 


Thank you for listening to my Intamin-related waffle. What do you you agree? Is there another manufacturer you think similarly about? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,