At first I thought the experience was going to be every bit of intimidating…with my heart pumping at a thousand beats per minute and not knowing what to do. I mean what else should I expect? I’ve been skydiving on numerous occasions and the idea of snowboarding off the mountain seemed about as extreme as it gets.
But little did I know…I was wrong.
Helmet sitting atop the table before departure.
I woke up that morning pretty excited yet nervous about my first attempt at paragliding. I wasn’t sure if things were going to go right or wrong. I didn’t know if the weather was going to be cooperative. Was I going to loose my breakfast before I even got on the mountain? Who knew.
All I had set in my mind was that this was something that needed to be done and truth be told, I looked forward to doing it…at least a little bit.
Aspen Paragliding sign.
As my buddy Josh & I arrived to Snowmass Mountain, we walked down the village stretch and made our way to the base of the mountain where we were going to snowboard down to the main lift. At that point, we would then take the Ajax Express up to the top of the mountain where Alex, my paragliding instructor, was going to meet me for my first departure flying off the mountain.
Boarding up for flight.
Once we had made it to Sam’s Knob (the departure area off the main lift) everything had seemed to gone smooth, really smooth. That was something I wasn’t used to. Usually something always goes wrong. Just to give you an idea, when I went skydiving the first time up in Ohio everything had gone smoothly up to the point of when I deployed my parachute.
After that, all hell broke loose as I effectively got tunnel vision while trying to untangle my chords out of the conglomerate of a mess they were in. Luckily in the end I remembered my training and everything worked out for the best. And here, on this mountain and on this very day everything seemed to be working with me for once…thank God!
Alex giving me instructions on proper technique.
Meeting Alex (owner of Aspen Paragliding) for the first time, we introduced ourselves and got right to business filling out a short liability waiver. After that, he began to explain to me exactly how everything was going to go down. Explaining how the equipment worked, proper technique, what was expected from departure point all the way down to the landing & even a little about himself and his line of work I found Alex to be very thorough as to eliminate any confusion towards what was going to happen.
All in all, I felt extremely safe going up with this man…a rarity in my line of work as I’ve done some pretty sketchy trips to date. After going through all the details and waiting for my buddy to snowboard down to the bottom of the mountain and set up his camera gear, we both strapped into our snowboards/ski’s and stood there waiting to take off. We stood for a good 5 minutes waiting for the winds to pick up just right before proceeding down the mountain. Once we got the clear, we pushed off the ramp and were off!
The feeling of flying is unlike any other.
At first the ride was a bit bumpy as I pointed the nose of my board straight down the mountain. With all my weight on the toe edge of the board, I gradually felt my feet release the weight of my body. Within 5 seconds, the ride got a lot smoother as the chute did it’s job and lifted into the wind off the mountain. At that point, the world and my surroundings quickly turned into perspective.
“The only experience you need is the passion for adventure.”
All noises related to that of people & machines dissipated and only beautiful silence followed that of the gentle wind which blew by my ears. The view was absolutely breathtaking. I’ve always believed that the top of the mountain was fantastic but this…this was unbelievable. The people below us on the mountain quickly turned into small dots and we were alone…blissfully alone.
Soaring through the air.
Coming down & preparing to land.
My mind had prepared my body for an extreme adrenaline rush but, truth be told, I found the experience peaceful. The cool air blowing in my face followed by the comforting rays of the warm sunshine quickly put me into a state of mind that allowed me to let all things related to the real world go.
It was simply amazing at the effect one could have hundreds of feet above the ground as they soared through the air like an eagle. Time became an illusion and real life problems…what am I kidding there were no real life problems up here. Only happiness & freedom…these are the things we come to realize when in a position like this. These are the things one must experience in their short lives.
Smooth sailing & another successful flight!
As the people skiing down the mountain became life sized, I realized we were getting close to the ground so Alex prepped me once more for the landing. Talking me through the steps one last time, I repositioned my body like that of when we took off and prepared for the landing that was coming up very quickly.
30 feet…20 feet…10…here we go! As my board touched the soft snow on the ground, Alex swiftly pulled the chords and in an instant I was standing there in disbelief of the experience I had just witnessed. As with all things great, time went by quickly and I had only wished we could have stayed in the air for at least another hour but sadly gravity would not have that.
Putting the toys away.
All in all it was a great experience & I looked forward to having another excursion that mimicked that of an eagle. As we folded up the chute, Alex told me a little more about his life and what it’s like to be a paragliding guide. I must say, this man is living a life that only some can dream of; but then again you must go after your dreams to indeed live them.
Once everything was put away, we said our goodbyes & I spent the rest of the day snowboarding with Josh out in Snowmass. But if I can leave you with one last thing, it’s this:
Paragliding can offer you one hell of an experience while at the same time putting your life into perspective at just how big the rest of the world really is.
Aspen Paragliding is the premier paragliding school in the country and a full service dealer of paragliders and equipment. We provide professional tandem instruction, certification, mountain & thermal soaring clinics, glider inspection & repair, accessory installation and international adventure travel excursions.
Our USHPA certified pilots have years of experience with flying, teaching, competition, glider design & testing and will make your introduction to paragliding secure and enjoyable. Envy the birds no longer…step into the sky & soar with Aspen Paragliding today!