The holidays in Sun Valley are unique. From the snow-covered peaks (and ski runs!) that surround the Wood River Valley, to the old-fashioned charm of the Sun Valley Village and the decidedly European feel of the Resort, Christmas in Sun Valley is straight out of a beloved picture book. I have spent more than 30 Christmases in Sun Valley and while I certainly appreciate all that the Resort does to keep current (our amazing snowmaking and grooming, the gorgeous Lodge remodel, The Spa, and new
It’s a singularly Sun Valley sight to behold: brightly colored sails from which riders dangle by nearly invisible cords, circling, dipping and flying over Bald Mountain. The sport of paragliding is hugely popular here and for good reason. “Flights” are serviced by fast and comfortable transportation (a.k.a the River Run gondola and Christmas chair lift), the instructors are pros and the scenery is simply unbeatable. Paragliding is an adventure sport where the pilot sits in a harness beneath a large fabric wing. Thermals and other aerodynamic forces, as well as pilot preferences, determine the composition of the ride. Here, Fly Sun Valley, the only fully insured and permitted paragliding operation of the Sun Valley Resort, conducting flights in cooperation with the Sun Valley Company and through an exclusive commercial permit issued by the US Forest Service, will help you have the time of your life.
Even a complete novice can enjoy tandem paragliding over the mountains of Idaho – truly a one-of-a-kind experience
Two of my intrepid friends visiting from Tennessee last week were more than up to the challenge of soaring over the ski runs and soaking up the scenery. On Sunday morning, they met their guides at River Run Lodge for a brief debriefing and were then whisked to the top of Baldy. On the Christmas lift, they rode on one chair: the gear rode on another. Up top, they (with their cheering section close behind) hiked a short way down the College ski run where other adventurous spirits were slipping into harnesses, checking lines and taking off.
Tandem flights are Fly Sun Valley’s specialty, and my friends, complete paragliding novices, were completely comfortable flying with pro pilots Chuck and Nathan. Flying tandem puts the beginner in the front with the experienced pilot a few inches behind. Nathan and Chuck practiced what takeoff and landing might feel like with guests Mike and Catherine respectively. It was then time to jump into harnesses and take to the clear blue summer sky.
Atop Baldy, Mike, intrepid adventurer and Sun Valley visitor, prepares to fly
Mike, an experienced helicopter and small plane pilot, was very interested in the mechanics of paragliding and Nathan explained the physics of flying in this way. As I understand it, the pilots use natural thermals (warmer air rising from the ground as it heats) to loft as high into the sky as possible. They then, using a special meter, find the next thermal and the next, riding them until they are ready to land. (My apologies for this simplified and perhaps-not-quite-scientific explanation, but that is the gist).
Catherine, an adventurous 15-year-old, was less interested in the science and more interested in the fun. In fact, a short time into her flight back to the base of River Run, she and Chuck were engaging in acrobatics – executing full flips and loop de loops.
Come fly Sun Valley style. The view is unbeatable
According to both “test pilots”, there was nothing scary about paragliding. To get started, the guest and pilot run to the edge of the hill and literally step off the mountain but both Mike and Catherine said that was just plain fun – no fear. They said landing was a bit of bump, but again, not frightening. They credited the pilot’s vast experience and calm manner for reassuring them.
“It’s also so beautiful up there you don’t think about being scared,” Catherine said. “Chuck was telling me which mountain ranges were which, which towns we were looking at and it was so peaceful and pretty I wasn’t even slightly worried. It went by way too fast.”
Mike said the experience exceeded his high expectations and he would recommend it to anyone. “It is a stunning way to see the area and it’s an experience you can’t get most places,” he said. “It was the highlight of our trip and we did a lot of memorable things.”
Paragliding on Baldy could not be more convenient. Zip to the top of the mountain on the River Run gondola and Christmas chair and prepare to lift off
Fly Sun Valley launches every morning in the summer season and advance reservations are required to participate.
Soaring in the Idaho sky is an activity on many visitor’s bucket lists, and now, having seen take off and the initial flight from the top of the mountain, it is on mine, too. The freedom, the beauty and the uniqueness of this event are calling!
Please call Fly Sun Valley at 208.726.3332 to book your adventure today.
Ready, set, fly!
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