Thursday, 13 August 2015

Paragliding Jackson Hole

We spent the past three days paragliding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Unknown to us, it’s a tandem paragliding hotspot. There’s about 15 tandem pilots working each day and, on an average day, they’ll each get three to five (or more) flights with clients. With the launch and landing sites both within view of Teton Village and, in particular, the tram that goes up Rendezvous Mountain, there’s definitely a captive audience. The first couple rounds of the day fill up quickly and, once the rush is over, the pilots wait at the top and try to round up business. Although it often seemed like organized chaos as the office staff got clients to sign waivers and pair them up with the tandem pilots, it was a well-run operation.
The tram used to get up to the launch site.
The first tram of the day always has very large pile of gliders in the middle!
As new (and relatively inexperienced) pilots in the area, the first day we were assigned a guide, Stephan, to give us a site briefing and make sure we got launched ok. Despite being nervous (as always!), I did ok with both launches and landings. Andrew wasn’t quite so happy with his.

There isn’t much for thermals in this area in the mornings so all of our flights were about 15-18 minute sled rides. Which suited me just fine. Normally, the winds pick up after the first flight of the day and are then too strong for pilots of our experience. Or the winds are coming from the wrong direction for novice pilots (which happened this morning on what we were hoping would be our fourth day of flying here). The locals told us many times how lucky we were getting in as many flights as we did.

Launch area for the solo pilots.
Amazing views. Can you spot the other paragliders? 
The Grand Teton. Andrew and I climbed it many years ago!
Mostly what I remember is the very difficult route finding on the way down. 
On the second day, they didn’t have any spare tandem pilots to be our “guide” so they let us go on our own. Stephan still kept an eye on us for the first flight and had us launch before him as he prepared to fly with his client.

After three flights going quite well and thinking I had the landings cased, I totally screwed up!
So true!!!!!
I’d come in a bit high each of the first three times but still managed to hit the landing zone fairly well. The fourth time I was trying to lose some altitude before coming in . . . and lost height way too fast. I landed on a road in the middle of the construction area beside the landing zone. Fortunately, the truck that I was sure I was going to collide with stopped and let me land before he kept going. I thought he was going to stop and say something but he passed by without even looking my way.

I meekly gathered up my wing and tromped past construction workers (who also didn’t even glance my way) and found a place to hop some rocks to cross the stream that separated the new condo development from the landing area. One of the local solo pilots who was very friendly and talkative assured me this was not an unusual occurrence for novice pilots and told me about the various places he’d landed while learning. Hence, no one really paying much attention to the odd place I’d ended up. Having said that, both Andrew and I got some stern advice on landings from one of the tandem pilots.

On our third day it was very grey, cloudy and rainy. But the rain showers came and went. . . and came and went. We all went to the top of the tram and waited things out. A couple tandem pilots launched between each of the rain showers until they were eventually all gone. 

More rain coming!
Tandem pilots launching and getting ready to launch between rain showers.
Andrew and I and few other solo pilots waited until the weather was a bit more stable.  Our first flights went well. On the second round, I managed to get launched and had a good flight but unfortunately the wind changed direction before Andrew could get launched. He waited quite a while but ended up having to come down on the tram.

Despite not getting in a fourth day of flying and only getting relatively short flights in, I quite enjoyed our time in Jackson.

- Andrew's second blog post on paragliding at Jackson.

Places we liked to eat and drink:
- Teton Thai
- Lotus Cafe
- The Kitchen
- Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters
- Bin 22 Wine Bar


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