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For the week of March 27 - April 2, 2002

  Arts & Entertainment

Flyin’ high at High Risin’

Express Arts Editor

Keep your eyes to the sky. Dotting our space-blue sky Thursday through Sunday will be dozens of brightly colored gliders—what Chuck Smith of Fly Sun Valley refers to as basically "big airplane wings."

Competitors from last year’s "High Risin" event race down to the target. Photo by Tim Brown.

The occasion for all of the activity in the air is the Annual High Risin’ Paragliding Fly-in and Dave Bridges Mountain Race held on Bald Mountain. The four-day event begins Thursday with registration and open flying all day. Smith expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 85 pilots to participate. Most of the pilots hail from Western states, but he said there are also pilots from the East Coast, Turkey and Sweden slotted to compete.

Friday evening will mark the kick-off party at Bigwood Bread, title sponsor for the fly-in. Hors d’oeuvres will be served and a slide and video show presented.

The Dave Bridges Mountain Race starts Saturday morning from the River Run Lodge at 8 a.m. Smith said the race is a "unique competition. It requires aerobic fitness, flying ability and precision landing to win it."

The clock starts and racers head up the mountain with all of their flying gear—generally a glider, harness, helmet and spare parachute. The packs weigh in the neighborhood of 40 pounds, Smith said. The pilots need to fly down all that they carry up, except for ski poles which competitors are allowed to use for balance while hiking.

Once they reach the top, pilots unpack and set up their gliders as fast as possible. This can take as little as 10 to 20 seconds, Smith said. They then fly down as fast as possible and try to hit the landing target in the upper River Run parking lot—in this case a giant loaf of bread from Bigwood Bread. Flyers are penalized 30 seconds for every foot away they land from the target.

Last year the first one up the mountain made it there in 59 minutes. Smith said it takes about 2 to 3 minutes to get down, so the roundtrip—for the fastest competitors—takes roughly 1 hour and 4 minutes. Not bad for a 6,000-vertical-foot journey.

There will be DJ music and other festivities at the landing spot.

The race is being held in memory of Dave Bridges, a champion paraglider and mountaineer. Bridges lived in the Wood River Valley in the mid 1990s. He was killed in a 1999 avalanche in Nepal, the same one that killed fellow climber Alex Lowe.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.