Paragliding – Flight of the Phoenix
I won the chance to spend the winter here at Canyons Resort by showing how much I love being in the mountains. For me, the mountains are far more than a physical location, they’re a complete contradiction of disability and the one place that frees me from the everyday complications and frustrations of life in a wheelchair. I know the side of a mountain doesnt seem like the easiest or most accessible place to be in a wheelchair, but once I exchange the wheelchair for a sitski or a paraglider then everything changes. Instead of struggling in a man-made world full of obstacles and being restricted to flat, even ground, I’m free to move in any direction with an ease and rhythm that’s simply impossible in a wheelchair.
Number two on my list of things to do while I’m here at Canyons was to get out and do some paragliding (Number One on the list is to ski as much as possible. I’m working hard at it.). If you saw my application video for The Ultimate Mountain Gig then you know that I already paraglide. Traveling with ski gear and paragliding gear is a bit much so I decided to leave my own flying chair at home and try to work out a way to fly with my sitski. Then I found out about the Able Pilot scheme here in Utah, dedicated to:
“…help people with disabilities (spinal cord injuries, amputations, and neuromuscular disease) to safely experience the freedom, joys and sense of accomplishment of free flight that paragliding offers.”
Able Pilot has been working to design a paragliding chair (Code name: Phoenix) and I was excited to see what they’d come up with, give them some feedback and get some flying time here in Utah. After a quick test flight to get a feel for the chair’s flying position without gaining any altitude it was soon time to head higher and get some decent flying. Unable to simply run forward and gain the forward momentum needed to launch, I sit in the chair and control the paraglider as normal while a couple people push/pull/throw me off the launch site.
Check out the quick video for a better idea of how things work:
[vimeo 20546866 495 350]
And a few photographs from the day:
The Phoenix chair was great! Very stable and agile on the ground during launches and landings, and comfortable in the air while flying. It was exhilarating to get in the air and enjoying the feeling of free-flight again. Only skiing deep powder can beat the feeling of freedom I get when soaring high above my empty wheelchair.
Stay tuned for more paragliding exploits and some flying at Canyons with the sitski. Fun things ahead!