We were sitting on the deck of the mid-way station, enjoying a beer in the sunshine after a great day of snowboarding at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, when we first caught sight of them. There were 2 tandem paragliders coming in for a landing, but on closer inspection I noticed something different about them. They were wearing ski’s!
Since my parents retired in the little mountain town of Revelstoke, located in Canada’s western most province of Bristish Columbia, I’d wanted to try paragliding. All 3 of my brothers and my dad had taken to the skies by running off the top of Mt Mackenzie, were Revelstoke Mountain Resort is located. They had all done this in the summer but I had yet to visit the west at this time of year. I always sought out the mountains in the winter, snowboard in hand, intent on seeking out the fresh powder that the east so often lacks. I was planning on giving paragliding a try next time I visited in the summer.
As K and I watched the paragliders with envy, I thought out loud, “I wonder if they’d let us do that with our snowboards?”
“They might,” replied my dad, “I’ll give them a call and ask.”
After speaking with the owner of Revelstoke Paragliding, Alan, not only were they available to take both K and I up, it was also a resounding yes to snowboards! Woohoo! Not only was I going to get the opportunity to try paragliding, something that had been on my bucket list for ages, I was also going to be able to do it with a snowboard strapped to my feet! No running on the side of a mountain for this girl. I was going to take it a step further and snowboard off the mountain!
A few days later on the morning of, we woke to a beautiful clear, blue bird sky day. We would definitely be getting full view of the stunning Columbia Mountain range and the town of Revelstoke nestled in the valley beside the Columbia River.
As we made our way to the mountain, I started to get nervous, but excited as well. I have a fear of heights (well not so much a fear of heights but more a fear of falling from them) and this was going to test my strength and will power. I have never let this fear stop me in the past as I think it would be a shame to miss out on all the fun activities that take place in the air: zip lining, rappelling, ice climbing, sky diving. I’d regret not doing these awesome adventures and I’m not one to let my fear get the better of me.
We met our instructors, Chris and Brad at the base of the mountain, got on the gondola and made our way to the top.
My dad came along, offering to video tape our adventure as we took off. Our launch site was the top of the mountain at the start of a black diamond run called Hot Sauce. This area was wide and open, with the tree line starting a few hundred meters down, perfect for paragliding.
We had to wait about 30 min, watching the wind sock for awhile, waiting for the perfect wind direction and strength.
It soon became evident that our location wasn’t going to work so we moved over about 200 yards to a wider location on the run that would allow us to take off in multiple directions, depending on the wind. This area was perfect so Brad and Chris got busy setting up the parachutes.
The plan was for K, who would be paired up with Brad, to take off first, with me and Chris following immediately after. We wanted to be in the skies at the same time, soaring over the ski hill like a pair eagles.
With the parachutes in place, it was time to strap in. I placed my snowboard on the ground, perpendicular to the fall line, with Chris’s ski’s on either side. Once strapped in, Chris clipped into his ski’s, attached our harnesses together and took a firm hold of the pair of handles that would control our direction and speed as we glided down the mountain through the air.
When everything and everyone were ready to go, Brad gave a shout to Chris.
“Ready?” yelled Brad.
“Yep, lets go!” responded Chris.
Brad and K turned their ski’s and snowboard so the pointed directly down Hot Sauce. Right away the parachute began to flutter and lift, and within seconds they were air born. Unfortunately, during their take-off a small breeze had been created by their parachute which caused our parachute to flip over. As I watched K and Brad soar into the skies, our parachute was blown over right into Chris and I. Ugh.
Feeling a bit disappointed and panicked, I asked, “Can we still do this?”
With a sigh of defeat, Chris responded, “Yeah, we can. I just have to set everything up again.”
With that, I stayed in place and watched K and Brad as they became smaller and smaller, soon disappearing behind the trees. Chris un-clipped from his ski’s and began the task of setting everything up again. About 10 min later we were finally ready to go!
With no one to wait for, Chris gave the signal and I turned my snowboard so it pointed straight down the mountain. We must have traveled about 10-15 meters before I felt a sudden tug from behind and was pulled hard to the left as the parachute caught air and tried to lift us. Struggling to keep my board pointed straight, within seconds were airborne!
Now flying about 30 feet in the air above Hot Sauce, we got comfortable in our harnesses and I looked around at the world below. With mountain peaks at eye level and the Columbia River stretching out in to the distance, I thought this is what its like to fly!
Not a cloud in the sky and the mid-day sun shinning brightly down on us, it was an incredible experience. We slowly followed the runs of the ski hill down the mountain, watching the tiny skiers who looked like little ants with a toy ski lift. Every now and then I felt like I was falling, weightless through the air and had to grip my hand holds tight to ground myself.
After about 15 min we came in for a landing in the wide open space in front of the mid-station. K and Brad had made it down by the time we took off and I could see them waiting on the sidelines for our landing.
I have to admit, while we had a superb take off, I found landing difficult with the snowboard. Since I was sitting in the harness like a chair, it was hard to turn my body to the side to get my snowboard in place. Fortunately, we only needed about 15 meters of space before we came to a stop, so I basically rode my back edge, leaning backwards into Chris until we came to a stop, were I unceremoniously sat down on my butt like a beginner. Oh well!
Thanking Brad and Chris for a wonderful experience, K, my dad and I made our way to the patio of the mid-station to enjoy a much deserved beer (which definitely helped to calm my frazzled nerves!). I was finally able to breath a sigh of relief knowing that I had managed to overcome my fear of heights and experience the amazing feeling of soaring through the air (with my snowboard!) in the middle of the mountains.