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Here are the results!
(Scroll down to the bottom if you want to download the full results spreadsheet or PDF)
Being the first year of the poll, participation was better than expected. Thanks to everyone who voted!
Huge thanks to Grant Barker and Dave Wong, who were incredibly helpful behind the scenes with their code writing skills and ideas.
And thanks also to Coaster-net, Park Vault, Roller Coaster Dream, and /r/rollercoasters for helping to get the word out.
If you're unfamiliar with ranked pairs voting tabulation, or you've never heard of the Mitch Hawker poll, do yourself a favor and click to read this page before continuing on.
This year, 2017, saw 115 ballots received. That's almost six times the number of ballots that the Hawker poll got in the first year, so needless to say, we're all pretty stoked. Even more impressive, the average number of woodies ridden by the voters was an astonishing 55! These are some well-traveled folks! Everyone is encouraged to vote, however, regardless of the length of their ballot. The shortest ballot came in from China with just two coasters on it. The longest ballot came from Massachusetts, with 172. Nearly 1/4 of the voters had ridden 100 or more wood coasters each.
The voters were spread out nicely across the globe, too. Here's a breakdown of where they came from:
If you missed voting this year and you'd like to be reminded about the next poll and receive a ballot in your inbox, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org - if you voted this year, you're already set. Look for the 2018 ballot in your email on November 1.
Here are the 2017 Top 25 Wood Coasters
#25 Raven - Holiday World, Indiana, USA
Custom Coasters Int'l 1995
Raven put Holiday World on the map with coaster enthusiasts. Smallish in stature but big in thrills, Raven's terrain-hugging ride hits all the sweet spots and ends the journey even better than it begins.
#24 Boardwalk Bullet - Kemah Boardwalk, Texas, USA
The Gravity Group, 2007
The butt-kicker by the bay is twisted and compact, hiding its secrets in a tangle of structure. First-time riders are caught completely off-guard by the ferocity and intensity of the layout and it takes several rides to figure it all out. For the full article, click here.
#23 Renegade - Valleyfair!, Minnesota, USA
Great Coasters Int'l, 2007
Twisted, speedy, and mostly hidden from view, Renegade delivers a raucous ride before returning breathless passengers back to the station.
#22 Thunderhead - Dollywood, Tennessee, USA
Great Coasters Int'l, 2004
Thunderhead is well-deserving of its top 25 status. Fast, furious, and fun, it even has a fly-by through the station to jangle the nerves of those waiting to ride.
#21 Prowler - Worlds of Fun, Missouri, USA
Great Coasters Int'l, 2009
Another twister hidden away from view, Prowler redefines "unpredictable" - especially if you're lucky enough to get a ride at night.
#20 Rampage - Alabama Splash Adventure, Alabama, USA
Custom Coasters Int'l, 1998
Rampage was feared lost when Visionland closed, but the purchase and reopening of the park (now called Alabama Splash Adventure) gave it a new and bright future. That's great news, since this ride is truly world-class. Long may it ride.
#19 Shivering Timbers - Michigan's Adventure, Michigan, USA
Custom Coasters Int'l, 1998
While the coasters up to this point have lots of speedy turns for thrills, Shivering Timbers is all about the hills. Huge drops, floaty camelback hills, and lots of speed make this coaster a no-frills masterpiece.
#18 Wooden Coaster Fireball - Happy Valley Shanghai, China
The Gravity Group, 2009
Combining vicious drops with a twisted layout, China's first wooden coaster is still bringing the goods. It kicked off a wood coaster building boom and introduced a whole country to classic wood coaster thrills.
#17 Wodan Timburcoaster - EuropaPark, Germany
Great Coasters Int'l, 2012
When the structure is this pretty and the queue line theming is almost a ride unto itself, you might worry that the coaster won't live up to the anticipation. You'd be mistaken. Wodan Timburcoaster isn't as intense as other GCI creations, but it might be the most fun.
#16 Boulder Dash - Lake Compounce, Connecticut, USA
Custom Coasters Int'l, 2000
A perennial favourite, Boulder Dash is perched on the side of a mountain and careens its way down to the bottom with breakneck speed. Few coasters feel as out-of-control as this one. That's a compliment.
#15 Troy - Toverland, The Netherlands
Great Coasters Int'l, 2007
Themed after the ancient city and the fabled horse, Troy is typical GCI goodness: lots of speed, tight corners, twisted layout, and breathless pacing.
#14 Coaster - Playland at the PNE, Vancouver, Canada
Carl Phare, 1958
In a time when wood coasters seem to be getting updated with more restraints, added brakes, or a full-scale conversion to steel rails, Playland's wood Coaster just keeps on keeping on. Old-school pacing, gorgeous trains, and legitimately terrifying airtime combined with some of the best ride operations in North America make this ride easily earn its spot on the list, even though it's nearly sixty years old. Read the full article on this coaster here.
#13 Balder - Liseberg, Sweden
Using Intamin's proprietary 'plug and play' track system, Balder is chock full of steep drops and hairpin turns while remaining smooth and re-rideable.
#12 Goliath - Six Flags Great America, Illinois, USA
Rocky Mountain Construction, 2014
Goliath is a Rocky Mountain Construction coaster made with their Topper Track system. The track is made from a stack of wood with a steel rail on top like other woodies, but the thickness of the steel rail gives it a smoothness and strength that push the limits of what a wood coaster can be.
#11 Mystic Timbers - Kings Island, Ohio, USA
Great Coasters Int'l, 2017
New in 2017, Kings Island's "What's in the Shed?" teaser campaign had everyone on edge. When the ride opened, some folks completely forgot about the shed finale because the ride leading up to it left them dazed and giddy. It's that good.
#10 Gold Striker - California's Great America, California, USA
Great Coasters Int'l, 2013
Gold Striker was the breakaway hit of 2013. Relentless pacing, quick direction changes, and lots of tunnels make this disorienting coaster a must-ride when visiting Silicon Valley.
#9 El Toro - Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey, USA
El Toro, like Balder, is an Intamin plug-and-play coaster. This bull ramps up the excitement with insanely steep drops, massive amounts of airtime, and a twisted finale that must be experienced to be believed.
#8 Ravine Flyer II - Waldameer, Pennsylvania, USA
The Gravity Group, 2008
Perched on the edge of Lake Erie, Ravine Flyer II makes use of the stellar views from the top of the lift to distract you before all hell breaks loose. Speed, airtime, a hidden section literally across the street from the park, and stellar pacing make this coaster an easy top ten hit.
#7 Cú Chulainn - Tayto Park, Ireland
The Gravity Group, 2015
This is the only major coaster in Ireland, but it's worth going there just to take a ride. Intense, fast, and insane, the ride is named after a mythological Irish hero. I should also mention that it's in Tayto Park, which is themed around a potato chip character. No, I'm not making that up.
#6 Phoenix - Knoebels, Pennsylvania, USA
Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, 1985 (relocation of The Rocket, 1948)
When Dick Knoebel bought The Rocket from a closed park in San Antonio and announced that it would be moved to his park in Pennsylvania, everyone thought he was foolish. Well, who's laughing now? Not only did Knoebels end up with a rock-solid top ten coaster, but their example convinced other parks that saving a classic woodie rather than building a new one from scratch was a viable idea. Phoenix isn't just a preservation story, though. Its airtime-filled ride is legendary in its own right and it's sitting in one of North America's most beautiful parks.
#5 The Voyage - Holiday World, Indiana, USA
The Gravity Group, 2006
The Voyage is long and treacherous and full of surprises, but worth every last second. Three 90-degree banked turns, seven tunnels, tons of airtime, and non-stop intensity have made this coaster a must-ride for enthusiasts all over the world. Built in 2006, it took several years before any other coaster would even approach the intensity and power of this ride. You can read the full article on this amazing coaster here.
#4 Outlaw Run - Silver Dollar City, Missouri, USA
Rocky Mountain Construction, 2013
This was Rocky Mountain Construction's first coaster built from scratch with their Topper Track system. Silver Dollar City proclaimed it "the world's most daring wood coaster" and in 2013, it was hard to argue with that. Incorporating never-before-seen-on-a-wood-coaster acrobatics, Outlaw Run ushered in a whole new kind of experience that's still hard to beat. You can read the full article here.
#3 T-Express - Everland, South Korea
T-Express rarely gets mentioned in other 'best-of' lists because it's way off the beaten path for most enthusiasts. With ranked-pairs voting, however, it finally gets placed where it deserves. Intamin's plug-and-play track strikes again, providing a smooth ride with impossibly steep drops and wicked banked turns. Add some of the strongest airtime moments on any coaster anywhere and you've got a really good reason to book a flight to South Korea.
#2 Lightning Rod - Dollywood, Tennessee, USA
Rocky Mountain Construction, 2016
It begins with the sound of squealing tires and the rapid acceleration of a magnetic launch over the lift hill. What follows is one of the most incredibly intense wooden coasters anywhere. Huge drops, twisted turns, a quadruple drop, a wave turn, and holy crap is it ever fast. You'll want to read the whole article on this amazing coaster, which you can do here.
#1 Wildfire - Kolmården, Sweden
Rocky Mountain Construction, 2016
Surprise! The best wood coaster on earth isn't at a big theme park in the US. It's not in the US at all. It's not even at a theme park. It's at a zoo. In Sweden. Coming in first place, Wildfire is a Rocky Mountain Construction creation with stellar views, steep drops, wild acrobatics, inversions, twisted bits, and an upside-down stall maneuver. Packing nearly everything you could want in a wood coaster into its layout, Wildfire takes the top spot on this year's poll with an incredible 96% win (in 1,364 head-to-head matchups with other coasters, Wildfire ranked higher 96% of the time).
You probably noticed some of those manufacturer/designer names coming up pretty frequently. Here's how the top 25 breaks down by designer:
Of course, since the ballot asked voters to rank every single wood coaster they'd ridden, there are a lot more rankings to look at besides just the Top 25. You can download the whole multi-sheet spreadsheet (MS Excel format, but it can be opened with most any spreadsheet app) or just the rankings (PDF file) with the links below.
The spreadsheet has several worksheets. The first is the Coaster Masterlist, which is simply an alphabetical listing of every coaster that was on the ballot. There are 198 coasters in the Masterlist. The color coding indicates the manufacturer/designer of the coaster.
The columns list the Full Coaster Name (as it appeared on the ballot), an abbreviated name (used in the Win/Loss/Tie matrix), the name of the coaster, the park and location, a handy link to the coaster's entry on the RollerCoaster Database, the designer/mfg of the coaster, and the year it opened.
The next worksheet is the rankings. The columns on this sheet show the rank, the coaster, Total Win Percentage, Wins, Losses, Ties, Number of Riders, Designer, and the Year the coaster opened.
The coasters are ranked by their win percentage - which is how often that coaster "won" (ranked higher) when it was compared to every other coaster. So for Wildfire, the 96.18 means that when Wildfire was put head-to-head against all the other coasters on the ballot, it was ranked higher 96.18% of the time. Impressive!
Total Wins/Losses/Ties is how many times that coaster went against another and how often it "won." Let's say that a voter rode 20 coasters and they ranked Wildfire at #3. Wildfire would then score 17 wins (because it beat the coasters ranked 4 thru 20) and 2 losses (because it ranked below 1 & 2) on that ballot. All the wins, losses, and ties are shown here.
The last sheet is a matrix that shows exactly how many wins/losses/ties a coaster had when compared to another coaster.
The ranked coasters are listed in the rows as well as the columns (the columns use the abbreviated name to make the sheet manageable). To find out how well a coaster did against another coaster, simply find the name of the first coaster on the left side, then follow that row across until it intersects with the second coaster's column. The cell data reads with a letter and three numbers. The letter indicated whether the coaster won, lost, or tied with the rival coaster and the three numbers are the wins, losses, and ties. For example, if you want to know how well The Voyage did against El Toro, you find Voyage (at #5) and follow it across to the El Toro column. You'll see "W 26-24-0" which means that Voyage won against El Toro because of the 60 voters who had ridden both of them, 26 preferred Voyage to 24 who preferred El Toro. None of them ranked the coasters equally. Of course, when you reach a cell where a coaster's row intersects its own column, the cell is blank because you can't compare a coaster to itself.
- RMC has only made four wood coasters to date. Three of those made the top five and none ranked lower than #12
- Voyage, Phoenix, and Cú Chulainn were separated by a total of just 0.4% - every vote counts!
- Blackpool's Big Dipper and Screamin' Eagle were even closer. They were only 0.0007% apart.
- At least three Chinese coasters would've made the top 25, if they'd had enough riders to qualify for the minimum cutoff