Bird’s Eye View
Take to the air on a tandem paragliding trip.
Paragliding is certainly not the
first thrill ride that comes to mind for most people living in or visiting the Vail Valley, but if a spine-tingling, stomach-lifting surge is what you’re after, look no further. There is no greater adrenaline rush than leaping off a mountain top and soaring over the peaks like an airplane with no engine.
“A lot of people who do it are people who have it on their bucket list, even people who are afraid of heights and looking to get over it,” says Greg Kelley of Vail Valley Paragliding. “And no experience is necessary. All you have to do is be able to run for a little bit … 10 yards and you’re in the air.”
All of Vail Valley Paragliding’s flights are tandem, meaning that an experienced pilot accompanies each person and does all of the steering and maneuvering. In the two decades that Kelley has been paragliding in the valley, his flights have included people from 5 to 85 years old. One of the company’s other pilots recently took a flight with an individual who had no legs.
The flights take off from Bellyache Ridge at around 8,600 feet above sea level and glide through the air for 10 or 15 minutes before landing 1,500 feet below. The drill goes like this: You look at the edge of the mountain and take a few running steps and presto — you’re in the air. You might find yourself hanging on for dear life until you realize the small strings you’re gripping won’t provide much support — and that the pilot needs them for steering. Your pounding heart ultimately strikes a euphoric rhythm as you mentally spread your wings.
“There are incredible views of the whole Eagle Valley all the way around,” Kelley says. “There are several ridges we fly along. We use lift factors to make the flight last longer. It’s an amazing experience.”
The options for landing are either to hit the ground running
or to put your feet up and land on