Paragliders hope to give tourists a bird’s-eye view of Glenwood
By Greg MasséPost Independent StaffGLENWOOD SPRINGS – With caving and whitewater sports already solidly established here, two valley paragliding instructors are looking skyward for what could be the city’s next adventurous attraction. Carbondale-based Adventure Paragliding is scheduled to ask City Council at tonight’s regular meeting if the company can use city land for parts of its commercial paragliding operation. The company’s owners plan to ask council if they can use city lands for a take-off and landing zone. They also plan to ask if they can have limited access to the city-owned road leading to the top of Red Mountain. If owners Royal Owens of Carbondale and Etienne Pienaar of Aspen receive all the approvals needed to start their business, they could offer tandem flights to the general public by the end of this month. “The community needs to know we want their support,” Owens said. “We think this is going to be good for the community.”A paraglider is a cross between a parachute and a hang-glider. Pienaar said the sport is quite safe, and it would afford visitors and locals an unforgettable view of the city. “It’s such a friendly environmental sport,” Pienaar said. “It’s a really beautiful addition to a town. It’ll bring people from the highway, and it will really help the town.”Pienaar, who has been flying paragliders for 10 years, boasts 5,000 paragliding flights without any incidents. Owens has been a tandem paragliding instructor since 1999 and has done more than 1,000 flights without a problem. “In the history of tandem flying, the safety record is really, really good,” Pienaar said. Statistically, the sport is safer than both skiing and mountain biking, he added. “It’ll be aimed at tourists with no experience and people who want to learn,” Pienaar said. “It’ll bring people from the highway. It just really would be a fantastic addition to town.”The two proposed paraglider takeoff points are on Red Mountain, high above the west bank of the Roaring Fork River near the lighted cross; and on Lookout Mountain near the radio towers atop the Boy Scout Trail. “That area has been used (by paragliders) for 25 years,” Pienaar said of the Lookout Mountain takeoff zone.The proposed landing zone is a parcel of city property just west of Glenwood Springs High School on the east side of the Roaring Fork River. “On a typical day, you’d do two flights in the morning. The turnaround time is about two hours,” Pienaar said.The morning flights would take off from Red Mountain. In late morning to early afternoon, depending on conditions, the company could offer another set of flights from Lookout Mountain. Both takeoff areas share the same landing zone. “We’ll be the only paragliding operation in the country that has both morning and afternoon flights land in the same spot, which is great for the city,” Owens said.To operate their business, the owners will need city approval to use the Lookout Mountain takeoff zone, the landing zone and the road leading to the top of Red Mountain. Approval with a private landowner would then be needed to take off from an area near the cross. Although Owens and Pienaar are waiting for all approvals to be granted before setting their prices, Pienaar estimated that a tandem flight – which lasts anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes – will be offered for around $140. Later on, the company will begin offering lessons for people who want to learn how to paraglide on their own. “We really want to encourage locals to learn it. It’s really popular all over the world,” Pienaar said. Pienaar and Owens are looking at locating Adventure Paragliding’s office at Colorado Canoe and Kayak on Grand Avenue. Also on the agenda, City Council will:• Hold a work session on economic development, at 5 p.m. in City Hall. • Receive reports from the city’s staff about ongoing business. • Discuss the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Four Mile and Airport roads.Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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