This article first appeared in print in the September 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
After over a decade in town, some of my usual summer paths were feeling well worn. The solution: change up the Revelstoke summer routine by trying some new experiences.
Paragliding was top of my list, despite the fact that paragliding’s probably not for me. Flying’s always fun, but I don’t light up about it like some do. I can’t see myself ever buying the equipment or committing to the training. So, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a one-off experience.
Revelstoke Paragliding offers tandem flights from Mount Mackenzie at Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) down to the landing area near the shore of the Columbia River. I called them up and booked a flight.
We met at the RMR village and signed on the dotted line. There were three pilots on the excursion. I chatted with Andrew Worthington on the way up the gondola. When he’s not paragliding for fun, he works doing paragliding tours, backcountry guiding, rock scaling and probably some other risky stuff, one can assume. He looked healthy and displayed no signs of any medical issues that could suddenly incapacitate him — a good thing.
While me and the other two guests sized up the pilots, they stared out the window looking for clues to help them on their flight. Tree branches moving slightly in the wind, clouds in the distance, the surface on the river below all gave clues about the behaviour of the wind.
We shuttled to the take-off area, right near the start of the new Fifty-Six Twenty bike trail, overlooking a field of alpine wildflower blooms. It was windier up there.
They matched me with my pilot, Bill Goglin, a Williams Lake resident who works the rest of the year as a logging contractor. After some instructions and a little practice, it was time. First, you crouch low, take the slack as the canopy catches the wind, then run down towards a drop-off.
Next comes the Wile E. Coyote moment: you’re still running but your feet aren’t touching the ground. The first ten seconds are the best — that same feeling you had as a kid when you finally got the nerve to jump off the high platform at the swimming pool. Now you’re committed.
Once up, it’s remarkably peaceful. We flew around the summit area for about 10 minutes, taking in new perspectives on Revelstoke, Mount Cartier and Ghost Peak in the back. Down below bikers rode down the new trail, which looked like a small thread through the trees.
Then I learned more about the invisible layers of air, each with different characteristics. We descended down into a layer with a bit more turbulence. It wasn’t bad, but it was a reminder: ‘You’re hundreds of metres in the air, floating under piece of cloth with a guy you met half an hour ago.’
Soon we were over the Columbia River Flats into a much calmer layer, even doing a couple small stunts (they give you the option not to) before touching down.
We came to a skidding stop on the grass landing spot just beside Airport Way south of town.
The verdict: it’s definitely worth it — a classic once-in-a-lifetime experience, for most.
To learn more, visit www.revelstokeparagliding.com, ask at RMR, or visit the Revelstoke Paragliding booth at the village at RMR.