Paragliding Brings the Thrill of Flying to Utahns

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    By Dylan Roberts

    Some say man was not created to fly, but that”s not holding Utah back from becoming one of the nation”s top paragliding destinations.

    Paragliding instructors in the area agree that Point of the Mountain is one of the best places to paraglide in the United States, and are currently preparing for a busy season this spring.

    “Spring and summer are always our busiest times of year,” said Steve Mayer, owner of Cloud 9 Soaring Center. “Every year brings in new beginners.”

    Beginning paragliders in Utah have a variety of places to choose from to take lessons. Utah has six paragliding schools.

    Dale Covington, owner of Big Sky Paragliding School, moved from Montana to Utah seven years ago because it is “such a good community of flying.” “There is a great community of pilots here,” he said.

    Covington has been teaching paragliding lessons for 16 years, giving lessons at both Point of the Mountain and Squaw Peak. Qualified instructors and a strategic location at Point of the Mountain attract paragliders to Utah from all over.

    “We have customers come in from all parts of the world,” Mayer said. “I am amazed to see how many people come from all over. It definitely shows that Utah is becoming a hot spot for paragliding, and I think it is one of the areas in the world where the sport actually seems to be growing.”

    However, the thought of harnessing up and hopping off a cliff doesn”t excite some students on campus.

    “I would be way too scared to even try it,” said Jessica Richardson, a senior from Oregon majoring in exercise science. “I usually don”t do well with heights so I don”t think paragliding would be too fun for me.”

    For others the idea sounds more fun.

    “It is one of the funnest things I have ever done,” said Amber Anderson, a junior majoring in nursing. “The first time I went I was so scared, but once I got up there it was such a thrill.”

    Anderson said her friends convinced her to go the first time, and although she was hesitant at first, she has now gone three times.

    “It is always scary the first time you go when you start getting high into the air, but I feel I have become addicted now,” she said.

    Mayer said he could understand why people would be hesitant to paraglide at first, but he has never seen any serious injuries. He said last year there was a sprained ankle here and there, but nothing he considered life threatening.

    “It”s really not too scary,” said Robert Williams, a junior from California majoring in biology. “It is different than anything I have ever done, but it is probably the closest thing you can do to flying.”

    Mayer said using power kites, often referred to as kite surfing, also grows more popular in the spring.

    To kite surf, people will put on a snowboard or skis and start skiing down a hill.When they go off a jump, the kite glides the rider into the air and will eventually gently land the rider back on the ground. The same can be done with buggies, Mayer said.

    For more information about paragliding in Utah, visit the Web site www.usairnet.com/paragliding/training/schools.html

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