South Dakota in the Trees

When you first approach Rushmore Tramway Adventures in Keystone, the Aerial Adventures Park suspended from the soaring pine trees is reminiscent of Swiss Family Robinson and the Lost Boys village in Hook.

“People do compare us to [things like] that often,” said assistant general manager Ben Larson, as we looked up into the ropes courses.

The eight courses sprawl over two acres, involving 100 platforms and 11 ziplines. This is one of many additions that have been made in the last 15 years when Mark and Vivian Fullerton purchased the business in 1999.

“The tramway was built in 1965, and it was just as a sightseeing trail; at the bottom there was a gift shop. It took you to the top of the mountain and there were gardens,” described their son and operations manager, Cameron Fullerton. “Actually, originally, it was like a sculpture park. You could walk around, and there were heads of presidents and such that an artist did, so you could walk around the park and check those out and see Mount Rushmore across the valley.”

One of the biggest highlights of Rushmore Tramway Adventures are the incredible views of the national monument, which is only two miles away.

Cameron has been working there for 17 years, and recalls the rough shape the business was in when ownership changed, including the broken aforementioned sculptures.

“[My parents] would have us all come up after school, and through the course of that winter, we revamped it. It was extremely rundown when we bought it, so we first redid the gift shop and painted the tramway cars,” he said. “Instead of being a continuous running chairlift that it is today, it was a tramway – so to speak – like enclosed cars. There were 16 of them.”

Find the loading and unloaded inefficient, another one of Mark’s first fixes after two years was to add a modern chairlift instead. They also built a restaurant (compared to a burger shack) that is surrounded by flowerbeds, waterfalls, trails, and a deck with a lookout towards Mount Rushmore. Around that time, Mark built his “baby” – the Alpine Slide.

To read the full article, read the May issue