By Tess Weaver Strokes | February 23, 2017 | Lifestyle
Aspen's above-mountain activities take flight.
Elevate! Tandem paragliding is one of several airborne winter sports giving Aspenites a bird’s-eye view of the mountains.
Aspen is one of the few resorts in the country that allow flight junkies airtime above town. For novice kicks, try Aspen Paragliding’s introductory tandem flights, in which a student passenger and a tandem pilot certified by the USHPA (US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association) launch off the mountain. You can sometimes gain several thousand feet in elevation before landing, up to 45 minutes later. Still, since it became the first ski area in the country to allow paragliding (in 1991), the ways to catch air in Aspen have certainly multiplied.
Speed-riding, a newer sport, combines paragliding with skiing. The wing—a kind of paragliding/skydiving hybrid—allows skiers to launch and land on snow multiple times before the final, high-speed landing on skis. “[It’s as if] you have this jet pack that you can engage whenever you want to leave the ground,” says Miller Sports owner and speed-rider Ted Davenport. “If you’re coming to a cliff or rock or variable terrain, you can take off within a second.”
Even more extreme— and dangerous—is wingsuit BASE jumping: With the help of a nylon suit creating lift, Davenport, an 11-year veteran of the sport, can fly at speeds of up to 140 mph before deploying his parachute and floating gently to the ground. A lot of adrenaline for a little bit of air!
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SOPHIE CHIKOVANI/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES