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!

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6 Responses to “Paragliding – Flight of the Phoenix”

  1. Nice in air shots!

    Flight is pretty magic & fairly cold this time of year. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Andy, you amaze me. I love your attitude, and the stoke that you provide. Keep it up.

  3. I commend you – not on the activity you blog about, nor your intestinal fortitude …


    by God!

    Your opening sentence you actually had “Canyons Resort” in it!

    – unlike your robot-like co-blogger, who’s machine-like writing constantly and dutifully eliminates “The” in front of “Canyons” at the direction of Canyons Resort’s sub-standard marketing outfit. Well, that’s a racer for you.

    Thank you so much for working around a rather “big joke” about Canyons Resort’s “new” name.

    Mind you … the folks who were hired by Talisker to try to make a proper noun out of a common one worked very hard to come up with the branding of Canyons Resort. Hours in focus groups and hundreds of thousands of dollars we spent coming up with the the color orange (not a burnt-orange mind you) and a three-loop segment of a DNA strand rendered in italic font.

    See ! Canyons Resort ! Not “Canyons” ! You *can* actually make a proper noun out of a common one !!! It took a non-American to finally put out some correct grammar.

    Thank you!! Bless You!

    • This post is aimlessly venomous and I am struggling to make sense of it. “Eric M” please explain your vitriol!

      Which interpretation of the name is it that bothers you?
      “The Canyons”
      “Canyons Resort”

      And most importantly, why do you care so much?

      You say that Andy’s “robot-like co-blogger”…dutifully eliminates ‘The’ in front of ‘Canyons’…” but isn’t “The” missing from Andy’s opening sentence as well? I don’t even know why I am wasting my time on this, but cowardly sniping from the anonymity of cyberspace pisses me off and seems especially inappropriate for these blogs. As much as I have enjoyed the videos and updates for a really cool gig, rude comments keep springing up and sullying the vibe of what should be great moments and shared experiences on the mountain.

      The most fascinating (and perhaps telling) aspect of your rudderless rant was the use of the pronoun “we” specifically from the passage, “…Hours in focus groups and hundreds of thousands of dollars ‘WE’ spent coming up with the color orange.” The plot thickens! Are you a disgruntled ex-marketing department employee from Canyons? Or are you a Park City local and Ultimate Mt. Gig loser?

      My final question is regarding the passage, “– unlike your robot-like co-blogger, who’s machine-like writing constantly and dutifully eliminates “The” in front of “Canyons” at the direction of Canyons Resort’s sub-standard marketing outfit. Well, that’s a racer for you.” I just don’t understand where you are coming from, except that you appear to be concerned about robots, machines, and racers, and have no concerns about redundancy or making any sense when getting nit-picky with nuances of the language. (However, you do deserve recognition for squeezing in “like” 3 times in the first 6 words!)

      How about following some common sense guidelines when participating in open forums on the internet. For instance, supporting and encouraging one another in meaningful ways. When you do disagree, please do so intelligently, without resorting to machine-like, robot-like, like-like name calling.

      I look forward to you illuminating us all.

  4. Hey Andy, Oh how i wish I could do paragliding too. Let me know how and where I can do that? That’s one of my dream – flying like a bird in the air, and all you I see is beauty of everything that surronds me.

    • Hey JR, get in touch with Steve at Cloud9 paragliding school in SLC (
      He’ll set you on the road to the clouds!