4 reasons why you need to paraglide at Point of the Mountain

By Steven Law

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, May 22 2013 7:10 a.m. MDT

Three gravel trails, each about 10 feet wide, run down the south face of the hill. You and your instructor will choose one of the trails, and this is where you’ll begin your training. When you’re first learning, you and your instructor will start toward the bottom of the south face. Your paraglider will be unrolled behind you. You’ll start running down the hill and pull the wing over your head as you go. If you do it properly, your wing will fill with air as you’re running and you’ll fly a short ways — a little Kittyhawk kind of flight — and coast to the ground.

But if it doesn’t work — if your wing fails to inflate and lift you off the ground — you’ll just keep running down the hill until you reach the bottom. No harm, no foul. You’ll live to gather your wing, carry it back up the hill and try again.

When you’re beginning, you will make several such runs down the hill. At the end of each run you’ll meet with your instructor and the two of you will discuss what you did right and what you may need to improve on. After each run you’ll move a little farther up the hill, until by the third or fourth run of the day you’ll be about two-thirds of the way up the mountain.

3. It's the perfect place for experts to soar

In addition to its dependable lift band, the Point of the Mountain also has world-famous afternoon thermals off its north side. As air is warmed it rises, and the Point of the Mountain’s thermals rise miles into the sky and paragliders travel from all over the world to rise with them while performing lazy circles and figure eights in the elevator.

The Point of the Mountain gets about 300 flyable days a year, and paragliders travel there from all over the world to play in its famous, consistent thermals.

4. It’s easier and safer than you might think

As your skill level and confidence increases, you’ll move into the group of paragliders soaring off the north side in the afternoon thermals, and there is no feeling to equal it. You'll be hanging there out in the warm, raw air, and as you cross the unseen threshold into the thermal, you’ll feel as if a cable has been attached to you and it's now reeling you upward.

The first few times this happens to you, it’s natural to get a little freaked out as you watch the Salt Lake Valley diminish below you to the size of a Monopoly board. A normal thought to enter you mind is, “What if my wing fails right now?” No problem. This happens, but it's rare. Most serious paragliders carry a reserve chute on them. Problem solved.

And what about landing? You’re cruising along pretty fast, after all. A paraglider has an airspeed of about 20 miles per hour. But you’re not going to land going 20 miles per hour. When you land, you’ll turn into the wind. Your airspeed may still be about 20 mph, but, moving into the wind, your ground speed will be considerably less. And just before you touch down, you’ll pull down on both brakelines to flare the wingtips, which further slows the wing's momentum.

Most paragliding companies offer introductory lessons for $80 to $95. Beyond that it takes between 10 to 12 lessons to receive your P2, or novice, certification, which will be an additional $1,000 to $1,300. Once you have your P2 rating, you advance at your own pace, teaching yourself.

Companies that can help you are:

Utah Paragliding

801-368-5139

www.utahparagliding.com

Paraglide Utah

801-707-0508

www.paraglideutah.com

Cloud 9

801-576-6460

www.paragliders.com

If you have a Utah adventure you'd like Steven Law to explore in a future article, send him your idea at curious_things@hotmail.com.

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