There were two strong contenders for this honor, Fury 325 at Carowinds and Cannibal at Lagoon.   The fact that I actually got to ride Cannibal surprises me even as I write.  Although Fury was a given, as North/South Carolina is a short hop from Philly,  I kept asking myself whether it made sense to go all the way to Utah just to ride a roller coaster.  I kept trying to talk myself out of it but was so intrigued by what I’d seen and read that when the airfare to Salt Lake City dropped to $303 I was on board.

While Fury 325 offered an adrenaline rush, with its breathtaking speed, intimidating height and multiple elements, Cannibal won out.  As great as Fury was, it was somewhat old-school, a hyped-up version of Leviathan.  Cannibal, on the other hand, was a novelty and completely unique.  Who ever saw anything that looks like this?  The massive tower in which it’s housed looks somewhat sinister, especially with all of the projections on the sides.  It’s remarkable not only for its appearance and elements but for being built in-house, a rarity in amusement parks today.  Also, while those who follow trends in the industry are familiar with the terms hypercoaster and giga coaster, Lagoon decided to be different by describing Cannibal as their “mega coaster.”  Even the lift is unique.   As one accustomed to chain or cable lifts, I found it highly unusual to ascend, mostly in the dark, on what is essentially a ski lift.

As to the ride, it’s nothing short of awesome! Upon reaching the top, the train emerges from the tower onto a short section of train which appears to end abruptly, creating the impression that the train is about to go off the end of a cliff.  It comes to a standstill, heightening the suspense, before plummeting at a wicked 116-degree angle. And yes, I’ve ridden coasters with an angle of descent as steep as 90 degrees, but going beyond vertical is a thus far unparalleled experience.  The declivity on Cannibal is unquestionably the most hair-raising drop I ever experienced on any roller coaster, and at the same time the most exhilarating.   This is followed by a dive into a tunnel.

The other elements – Immelmann loop, overbanked curve, dive loop and double heartline roll (dubbed the “Lagoon Roll” by the park) – in that order - were a delight.  The entire course is seamless.  After the train goes through the dive loop it reaches the block brake, proceeding to the Lagoon Roll.  The fact that the two consecutive heartline rolls take place in slow motion greatly intensifies the ride experience, as the centripedal forces are especially strong.   After the Lagoon Roll, the train spirals through a 450-degree helix by a waterfall before returning to the loading station.

The beyond-vertical drop was certainly the highlight of the ride, but the inversions served to enhance what was conspicuously different from anything I had ever ridden.  While it wasn’t easy to decide whether it made sense to fly almost 2,000 miles to ride a roller coaster, it was the right decision.  Cannibal was well worth the trip.  This coaster blew me away!