Friday, August 27, 2010

High in the sky

Sun Valley hosts 2010 U.S. Paragliding Championships


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo by Honza Rejmancek Jamie Messenger is flying under a classic Idaho sky.

Look up to watch the best paragliding pilots in the nation take to the skies of Sun Valley. Paragliders will whirl and fly through the air for the 2010 U.S. Paragliding Championships, which will take place in Ketchum and Sun Valley from Monday, Aug. 30, through Sunday, Sept. 5. The competition in Sun Valley is Round 2 of a two-competition series. The first round was the Chelan XC Open in Washington.

The competition will celebrate cross-country paragliding with a "race-to-goal" format. The event will host the best pilots from all over the United States along with a strong showing of international pilots. In addition, staged events, parties and demonstrations will take place throughout the week. Sun Valley Paragliders, the area's recreational paragliding club, is hosting the competition.

Mike Pfau, president of Sun Valley Paragliders and organizer of the Sun Valley portion of the national paragliding competition, said the competition is not based on the best flight, but on cumulative points.

"The competition is organized to get the most flyable tasks and cumulative points every day," Pfau said. "The series allows for pilots to drop their worst day and still be able to win."

Pfau said the cumulative point system is necessary because flying can be shut down due to weather and other circumstances.

"Having the nationals in Sun Valley has done a lot for the promotion of paragliding, and getting more people turned on," he said.

Pfau said paragliding is a growing sport and is gaining popularity because it has become less of an extreme sport. He said the technology has become better, and it's a sport more people are willing to try, but many don't know how to get into it.

"People can contact me," he said. "And they can get into a school, get equipment and start flying."

The race-to-goal competition will include between 80 to 100 pilots. In addition, another 30 to 40 recreational pilots will be checking out the competition.

"In the next 10 days, the valley skies will be filled with many gliders," Pfau said. "And, paragliders from around the world will be here to scout Sun Valley for a World Cup paragliding event."

Pfau said there are seven World Cup events around the world. This year's Super Final will take place in Turkey.

"Sun Valley is a world-class paragliding site," he said. "It has the best amenities, thanks to Sun Valley Co., and there are eight mountain ranges to launch from in the area. The new state distance record for free-flying cross country in the state of Idaho started from Baldy."

Hailey resident Nate Scales set the long-distance record on Aug. 17, launching from Baldy and landing in Spencer, near the Montana border. He started just before noon and landed at 8:03 p.m. Scales flew 148.5 miles in a little over eight hours.

Scales will be competing among several other Wood River Valley paragliders, including Pfau.

The 2010 U.S. Paragliding champion will be crowned in Sun Valley on Sunday, Sept. 5, at Ketchum Town Square at 6 p.m. with live music, food and drinks. All are welcome to attend with a suggested donation of $10. In addition, a midweek pilot meeting will take place at the Powerhouse restaurant in Hailey on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m. All are welcome.

For details, visit www.usparaglidingnats.com.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com

Paragliding events

- U.S. Paragliding Nationals and PWC World Cup will take place in Ketchum and Sun Valley from Aug. 30-Sept. 5. All launches take place from Bald Mountain. For details, visit www.usparaglidingnats.com.

- Wings over Wagon Days will take place on Saturday, Sept. 4, from 10-10:30 a.m. It will include jumping with parachutes out of tandem paragliders above Ketchum.

- U.S. Paragliding Nationals and PWC World Cup midweek pilots meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the Powerhouse in Hailey. All welcome.

-  U.S. Paragliding Nationals and PWC World Cup Award Ceremony at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 5, at Ketchum Town Square, with live music, food and beer. 6 p.m. $10 recommended donation.




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