Paragliding Colorado


Original Post
Eric Klammer · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 2,075

Hi all,

Hoping to start working towards my P1/P2 paragliding cert soon. I'm currently based in Boulder and will be there until mid-April or so. Just wondering if anyone has any experience with the schools in Colorado...

I'm currently looking at Peak to Peak Paragliding in Boulder and Adventure Paragliding based in Glenwood. While Peak to Peak is out the back door, the slight downside seems to be more simple and unvarying terrain that may not be representative of other Colorado areas I'd like to fly in the future. This is opposed to Glenwood, which is further away (and possibly too snowy to train until April/May?) but offers a more complex and "mountainous" flying area which might offer a deeper learning experience. I'll be starting full time/structured work again mid-April so I've yet to determine if Glenwood would even be an option conditions wise before then. Anyways, this is the overall gist I've gotten from talking to a few people previously. What do you think?

I will hopefully be able to meet/talk with both schools in the next week but figured I'd throw this out there as well. If you've got any tips, tricks, or suggestions in regards to pursuing paragliding in general I'd love to hear those as well. Thanks for your time!

-Eric

Zach M · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 0

I fly a small plane out of Boulder Municipal, and I've taken glider lessons with Mile High, and talked with the balloon companies, but never dealt with paragliding.

I'm under the impression that Boulder doesn't allow any landing or launching from Boulder open spaces. I've never seen paragliders over Boulder proper, although you do see them north of the city. Poking around Peak to Peak's website, it looks like they must have permission to launch from Foothills Park, but maybe the city expects people to also land there.

Golden, on the other hand, is always swamped with gliders from Lookout mountain. I'd expect to be driving down there for lessons, although it's only 20-30 minutes each way.

http://www.milehighgliding.com/common/sinkhole.htm has a description of what the thermals and waves over Boulder can be like, and forecast.weather.gov/produc...;product=SRG&issuedby=BOU is a useful weather tool for soaring out of Boulder. Boulder doesn't have a reputation for simple gliding weather, although I don't know how paragliders feel about it.

Winter flying in Boulder can be rough, and the winds can grow very strong. My understanding is that paragliding has a high accident rate relative to skydiving or gliding, so be careful.

Absolutely none of this is coming from a paraglider, but hopefully you learned something useful. Good luck!

Eric Klammer · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 2,075

Hey Zach,

Thanks for the info and the link, that was an interesting read for sure! And yes, I'm curious to find out what the "in" season is around here, I assume summer. And yes, they must be permitted as it looks like all flights are over the foothills in N Boulder and I think that's open space... At the very least I've now got a few more questions to add to the list!

Thanks again,

-Eric

David Wieder · · Salt Lake, UT · Joined May 2014 · Points: 63

Don't waste your time learning anywhere in Colorado, take two weeks to learn how to fly at The Point of the Mountain in Salt Lake. Seriously, I know what I'm talking about - pilot for 9 years, competitions, flown all over the world, used to be a member of The Telluride Airforce, and just moved back to SLC from Boulder last fall. You will learn more/fly more in a week at The Point than you will all summer in Boulder or Glenwood. You will have to wait until May for The Point to be flyable. After you get your P2, take a guided day with a school in Boulder or Golden to get set up to fly there. Don't try and cut corners with you're training, you'll die.

Dale Covington (801-699-1462) and Chris Santacroce (Superfly, 801-255-9595) are the 2 best options for teachers in SLC/America.

Kristoffer · · North Bend, Wa · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 50

I second that, call Chris Santacroce.

Eric Klammer · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 2,075

Thanks for the heads up guys, great to know. I'll give Chris a call as a two week trip is definitely doable and well worth the travel if it's that much better.

Adamant D · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

I've looked at the CO options and have a little feedback as I'm in about the same boat (learning / searching for an instructor). I chose to stay away from the Boulder options as I wasn't impressed with the weather consistency or feedback from previous local students. I can go into detail in a PM if someone is considering learning in Boulder, but I don't want to rag on local pilots unnecessarily or publicly.

I've spent some time, and flown once, with Greg Kelly of Vail Valley Paragliding, and he seems like a very good option (good recommendations from past students). However, Greg teaches skiing at Vail until mid April, so might not be an option given your schedule.

The Salt Lake suggestion at The Point of the Mountain sounds great - I'll look into that for the spring.

akafaultline · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 225

As another option-I would look up Jonathan at utahparagliding.com I didn't learn from him initially-but he definitely helped me out pro bono dozens of times and offered to take me places that I hadn't flown before-cool guy and knows his stuff.

Of course-superfly is awesome as well-and the option of doing tows and collapsing your wing numerous times under supervision is a huge benefit.

Eric Klammer · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 2,075

Headed out to Point of the Mountain in a couple days to learn with Superfly! I'll update this when I'm back in case any one else is in the same boat.

Thanks for the help guys!

trice Rice · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 0

Eric,
How was your experience in SLC? Was it worth the trip out there to learn?

Tradster · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 0

I've been interested in pursuing this sport. What is the consensus on how much to get into it? Lessons, gear, etc. Seems pretty steep, but it certainly looks like tons of fun. Thanks.

Corey27 · · Baltimore, Maryland · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0

I don't have my PG1/PG2, but I've taken a few lessons and hunted around for options. Most of the schools are similar. It will cost 5-6k to get your beginner setup. That's wing, harness, reserve and lessons.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 165

how safe is this generally considered? as in, when compared to sky diving and base jumping. i know sky diving is considered fairly safe, while many people look at base jumping as unsustainable. is paragliding more if you get proper training and make responsible decisions youre fairly safe?

i ask because ive always been interested.

Tradster · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 0

Thanks Corey. It just looks like too much fun. Saw them doing it in Chamonix and here in AZ. Any advice is appreciated on gears, schools, whatnot.

Zach M · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 0
Jake wander wrote:how safe is this generally considered? as in, when compared to sky diving and base jumping. i know sky diving is considered fairly safe, while many people look at base jumping as unsustainable. is paragliding more if you get proper training and make responsible decisions youre fairly safe? i ask because ive always been interested.
Paragliding has a higher accident rate then sky diving, I believe it has to do with the lower wing loading meaning that chute collapse is more likely.
Kris Holub · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 70

I got my P2 with Kay at Peak to Peak Paragliding at the beginning of June, getting the bulk of the training done over about 6 weeks starting in mid-April. Wonderland lake is the site we train at, and have special permission to launch and land at, whereas it is illegal on the remainder of OSMP land. Lookout mountain in Golden is an intermediate site which requires a P3 minimum and sponsorship from an approved pilot there, so forget about learning there or flying it anytime soon. The only other front range learning site is at Vail.

The Launches at wonderland are hike ups, with the upper launch being a gain of 680'. As a student pilot you will only be flying in calm, early-morning air so you can expect to get 2-3 flights per day, maybe 4 if you are a fast hiker and the weather is favorable. It takes a minimum of 25 flights to get your P2 so you're realistically looking at a minimum of 10 flying days. Wonderland has a massive grassy LZ and you pretty much can't get a more forgiving beginner site. While there are flyable days year-round, it isn't very consistent outside of Mid April - Mid November. If you're leaving in April, you will be very unlikely to finish your course by then.

Bellyache in Vail is a drive-up site with about 1600'. The altitude is great for giving you a lot of time to work on maneuvers. The LZ is reasonable, but can be intimidating for a beginner, as it isn't huge and is bounded on all sides by I-70, The Eagle River, and power lines. But people do learn there, so it is an option.

For cost, the going rate seems to be on the order of $1800 to get your P2, plus you have to buy your own gear. If you go used you could probably find a full setup in good condition in the ballpark of $2-3k, or 4-5 if you go new and higher end. But that's a decision to make with your instructor. Do not buy used gear off Ebay, you will not know if you are selecting a size and model appropriate for your skill level. There are really hot wings out there that will get you killed as a beginner.

As far as safety goes, statistically it has a similar risk profile to skydiving. Paragliding can be as safe or dangerous as you want to make it - I think an apt comparison is Kayaking. The risk isn't so much from random equipment malfunctions, but rather making bad decisions; whether that be launching in conditions you shouldn't be in, or flying without sufficient caution - scratching low to the ground trying to pick up lift, making aggressive maneuvers close to the ground, etc. If you choose to fly at well-known sites with a safe Launch, Generous LZ, fly in calm, stable air and use the right gear and maintain a conservative approach, it can be very safe. If you are using a twitchy speedwing to fly fast and barrel-roll close to the ground, the risk profile begins to approach BASE. If you go take your used gear which is actually a beat-up comp wing you got off Ebay, huck yourself off a random mountain in the middle of a summer afternoon with booming thermals, yer gonna die for sure.

Eric Klammer · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 2,075
trice Rice wrote:Eric, How was your experience in SLC? Was it worth the trip out there to learn?
SLC/Superfly was a great experience and something I would highly recommend if you're interested in checking out paragliding. Chris, Turtle, and the rest of the crew are amazing instructors and a fun group of people to spend a couple of weeks with.

As well as learning to fly they teach you a lot about the decision making/risk assessment processes that goes into every flight. Coming from guys with a combined 30+ years of experience this led to some great discussions and some really valuable info.

And of course weather, ground school, and basic maneuvers was also covered in depth. While I was there Superfly hosted a presentation by a meteorologist who was also a competitive PG/HG pilot. This was super cool to attend had a ton of great information for pilots looking to fly Xcountry.

I was there 23 days and I flew (or ground handled early on) 19 of those! The weather was amazingly consistent (for April) and Chris/Turtle are great at making the best of the current conditions. I was able to go towing one of my final days out there which was a great way to safely practice some basic maneuvers. Learning to fly at the Point also gives you a chance to fly in a wide variety of conditions, from nil wind to it blowing almost trim speed. (So the saying if you can fly at the point, you can fly anywhere.)

One aspect that would put the POTM over Boulder would be flight duration while learning. I don't have a lot of experience with the Boulder site but I assume sledders would be the norm there and longer flights the exception. I flew quite a few half hour plus flights while learning at the point and a couple over an hour (benching up on the N side is amazing!). While being way more interesting overall, this also gives you an understanding of traffic patterns and what it takes to stay mentally aware on longer flights that you probably won't get learning to fly in Boulder.

Hopefully this gave you somewhat of an idea of my experiences learning to fly at POTM. I'm not super great at trying to write down everything in a coherent way so send me a PM or post up on here if there is anything else I can help answer!

-Eric

TL;DR - Learning at the POTM = well rounded pilot with a good head toward decision making that probably has a wider skill set than a pilot that learned to fly in Boulder.
Eddie F · · Edwards, CO · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 25

Hey yall,

I already know that I am going to get into paragliding, I am just messaging to see if any of you have experience with this. I am a teacher and I have a lot of time off this summer. My plan is to take lessons at POTM or somewhere in france for 3+ weeks, and then travel around France, Switzerland, and Italy, biking, climbing, and paragliding. My questions for you guys are: Has anyone taken lessons internationally and if so, how were they(quality, price, etc)? And, has anyone traveled with their glider and flown internationally and if so, how were the logistics of it all from the US to the launch sites? If you have anything you can share, a dm or phone call would be a huuuuuuuge help.

Thanks,

Eddie

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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