Paragliding business is taking off
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Business is looking up at Adventure Paragliding, even though the business is all about looking down. Adventure Paragliding has been flying over the skies of Glenwood Springs for the past month, and its founders hope their business keeps flying high for years to come. The new paragliding company takes regular people with a sense of adventure to new heights and gives folks a unique and thrilling bird’s-eye view of Glenwood Springs. “We fly 3 to 83 years old,” said Aspen resident Pine Pienaar, co-founder and owner of the company. “If a passenger is able to run a few steps, we’ll talk to them.”Pienaar and his partner, Royal Owens of Carbondale, began offering commercial flights and paragliding instruction here about a month ago. “It’s such a different experience than what people are used to,” Pienaar said. The early-morning routine for Pienaar and Owens is to meet their clients at The Market at Summit Canyon Mountaineering on Grand Avenue where they have coffee and talk about paragliding. On a good day, Adventure Paragliding will offer three flights: one at 7:30 a.m., one at 9 a.m. and the last at 11 a.m.Next, it’s off to the landing zone, which is an empty parcel just west of Glenwood Springs High School.From there, Pienaar and Owens pack everyone into a truck and head up the hill. At the top of the Red Mountain takeoff zone, which is located right next to the big lighted cross above the city, it’s time to spread out the glider and make final preparations for takeoff. The 11 a.m. takeoff is from the other side of the valley on Lookout Mountain.Pienaar said there are a lot of misconceptions people hold about paragliding and the pre-flight meetings are partly to ease people’s fears. “The first one is fear of heights,” he said. “There’s no sheer drop or anything like that.”Instead, the paraglider fills with air while the fliers are still on the ground. Once the glider is over the gliders’ heads, the instructor and passenger run forward until they’re lifted off the ground. Pienaar said a lot of people think paragliding is like BASE jumping, where the chute doesn’t open until they’re in the air. “The glider is already open when you take off,” he explained.Another concern for some people is changeable weather, but Pienaar said his years of experience in micrometeorology is invaluable when deciding when he’ll fly and when he’ll play it safe and keep his feet on the ground.”We don’t fly in bad conditions,” he said. Pienaar has the most experience, having flown 2,000 tandem flights and 4,000 flights during his eight-year career and no accidents. “I’m a certified instructor with eight years’ experience,” he said. Pienaar also recently took off from a mountain above Aspen, reached an altitude of 19,000 feet, flew over the two peaks of Mount Sopris at 16,500 feet and landed in Carbondale. “I’d like to make it all the way to Glenwood,” he said. The two are part of the Glenwood Soaring Club, a club to which everyone who paraglides here must join to be able to take part in the sport. “Every town that has paragliding has a club and a school,” Pienaar said. Pienaar has said that statistically, the sport is safer than both skiing and mountain biking. “When we fly tandem, safety is our main priority,” Pienaar said.The two also said they’ve flown with people who are blind and people bound to a wheelchair, so almost everyone can give the sport a try. Normally, a tandem flight will cost $140 and last anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes. But Pienaar and Owens said that since they’re new, a ride will cost just $125 and they’re running a local’s special for $110. They suggest that customers wear jeans, high-top shoes and a light sweater. “It does get cold, especially if you gain altitude,” Pienaar said. Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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