Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sneak Peek at the Chili 4

As mentioned in my last post, it's too snowy to get to launch...unless you're up for a good hike of course.  Since I'm battling a nagging winter cough that option is out of the question for now, so I'm going to have to peek at my new paraglider here inside my house.

First impressions - the new inner bag is amazing!  Instead of the usual bag with an opening and drawstring up top, you can zip down both sides to expand the bag. This will definitely replace my accordion packing bag on hike and fly adventures, and maybe even day-to-day flying. It almost looks like a stuff-n-go type bag but without the awkwardness of trying to carry one of those for more than a few steps.

New Skywalk inner bag - sides unzipped

Skywalk inner bag - all zipped up 
View from the top (newly designed outer backpack to the left)

Skywalk also redesigned their outer backpack - it's sleeker than previous versions with nice fat easy-pull zippers, an outer bungee to slide your jacket in when you get hot hiking up to launch, plus a small pouch on the hip strap to stash your keys or phone.

But back to the goodies inside the bag! Riser bag, bandana/neck gaiter/whatchamacallit, manual and piece of white repair tape are included standard with each wing.

Swag is always awesome!

I pulled out the risers from my Skywalk Cayenne 4 (EN-C, 2012) to compare to the Chili 4 (EN-B).  In 4 years glider development has come a long way - there's almost no difference now between my "old" EN-C and the new EN-B (see photo below).  Both have skinny risers and skinny lines (one extra on each riser for the B wing) but at this first quick glance they look really similar.

Skywalk Cayenne 4 on the left, Skywalk Chili 4 on the right.

And even with the extra line on each riser, the wing weighs .1 kg less overall than my Cayenne of the same size. The only physical change I can see on the risers is the black plastic tabs in the quick links were replaced with rubber O rings, plus the big ears tabs have been removed.  

Close up of the Skywalk Chili 4 riser

They also switched to snaps for the brake handles - personally I prefer magnets but guess I can live with the change! They also have a cool loop on the rear risers instead of a pulley for the brake line to thread through to keep everything clean and organized.

Same as photo above - Cayenne 4 on left, new Chili 4 on right.

You can see the brake line itself is even thinner than my "racier" wing...I seriously can't wait to try this Chili 4 out!

I'm not really comparing apples to apples here, but with the huge improvements in EN B gliders these days I'm guessing that I'm not going to notice a whole lot of difference in the air to my 4-year old EN C when I finally get a chance to go fly this new beauty.  Hoping Santa brings some warm weather to melt the snow on the road to launch so we can drive at least most of the way up, and some clear skies and perfect winds to go with it!  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Skywalk Chili "4" Christmas


                                              Christmas came a few days early this year!

Skywalk Paragliders have been working on their new Chili 4 ("high" EN B) over the last year or so, testing and modifying and testing again until it met their exacting standards. To find the perfect balance between safety and performance meant having patience as they modified designs until they were satisfied.

I eagerly read each of our Team Pilot updates - this was my new baby in production after all! Knowing the delay meant a better wing made the wait worth it...that and the miserable weather we seemed to have here almost every weekend this season.

On Thursday December 8th the email came from Skywalk - the XS Chili 4 would be ready for shipping early next week! Sure enough, UPS tracking showed my glider ready for pick up from Skywalk's warehouse in Germany on Tuesday morning. By Thursday it was sitting in Richmond, BC - merely an hour's drive away from me - waiting to clear customs.  As usual, the customs agents took their own sweet time and didn't release it until Friday afternoon, which meant no delivery until Monday.  Who cares if it was snowing and the wind was gusting over 30 km/hr...I wanted my wing!

So, I now have a perfect new paraglider sitting under my Christmas tree waiting for a sunny day and the energy to hike up to one of our local launches (that whole snow thing means no driving up to the take-off any time soon).

I did peek inside since there weren't any signs saying "Do Not Open till Christmas". I don't think I'll be missing much "stepping down" from my 4 year old EN C. By the look of the risers that I carefully wiggled out of the magically folded glider (so I could actually fold it back up factory-style), it's obvious that EN B wings have come a long way.

Another post coming soon with some first impressions and pictures from my sneak peek in the (wicked new) bag!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Canadian Paragliding Nationals Wrap Up

The Canadian Paragliding Nationals 2016 is a wrap! Sorry for the delay in posting but I was almost out of data and no wifi nearby, so waited until I got home-sweet-home. 

Thursday had looked like the best flying day in the long-range forecast, but the weather just wasn't on our side this comp. It was another sub-100 point day, and of all the competitors only five pilots got above launch and one local amazed us all by making it most of the way along the course line. 

Thursday night it poured, and Friday morning was no better.  We called off the rest of the meet as Saturday's forecast was even more grim, and the award party was moved to Friday afternoon since people wanted to head home early if they couldn't fly. 

Friday was not looking promising

But...we got a fancy awards ceremony held at Les Petits Cailloux winery (owned by a local pilot at the base of Mount Yamaska)...complimentary glasses of rosé were flowing and every pilot (and volunteer too) got at least 2 prizes donated by a bunch of different sponsors.  Gorgeous wooden trophies sculpted by Patrick (another local pilot) were given out to overall and Canadian champions. 

After 3 very difficult, light and scratchy tasks, the champions were announced.

Local pilot and Meet Organizer Christian Grenier is our 2016 Canadian National Champion! Jimmy pulled in last minute in 2nd and a mystery pilot who did not want publicity in 3rd (some stories are better told in person tee hee). 

 Jimmy, Christian and ???

Fellow Skywalk pilots and friends Jacques Blanchet and Daniel Egerman won 2nd and 1st place respectively in the sport class (go team!) on their Cayenne 5 gliders with local pilot Guy Leblanc in 3rd, and I took home the trophy for Top Female. George loved competing at his first event and met his own personal goals and we're already making plans to do it again.

Jacques, Daniel (with future pg star) and Guy - winners in the EN C class

Despite the uncooperative weather, it was a fun week and the closest thing to summer camp as an adult that I've found - you make tons of new friends, learn new skills, are a little nervous on the first day but can't wait to go back! 

Gorgeous trophies and souvenir wine Tshirt. Everything made it home safely!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Day Four, Task 2

After sitting on launch for 5 hours...we flew! The winds finally backed off enough for us to all launch safely, but it was still more wind than I'm used to flying in back home. We were at a small, tight launch which made taking off a little tricky but all those hours of kiting paid off and both George & I had great take-offs. 

                  Waiting to launch

Yesterday's top flight was only worth 130 points for the top pilot (out of a possible 1000) so we were hoping for a better day to make up some points. Today's conditions were also challenging - windy and no one could get very high - so once again no one made goal and the top pilot got just over 200 today. 

I made the entry start cylinder today which was upwind from launch and then flew about halfway to the next point, but when I saw pilots descending vertically I decided to veer off into the landing zone at HQ which was just a couple of fields away. I saw another pilot landing across the river and thought about flying over to join him as it was further along the course line, but due to the scoring parameters we ended up with the same points at the end of the day. It ended up being a much nicer landing field so a good decision after all.  Most fields are full of crops right now - corn, wheat and soya - and we've been asked to try to land on the roads between crops (for obvious reasons) so there have been some pretty entertaining landing stories about avoiding those fields so far!

Tomorrow still looks great so we're on track for 3 or even 4 tasks this comp. Woot woot!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Day Three, Task One (Tuesday)

Boooo! Totally choked when flying today and landed in about 9 minutes (launch is only at 300 meters so if you don't find something right away you're kind of hooped). I did have a good launch and safe landing (blah blah blah) but it got me thinking - every comp I've been to I've landed at the bail out on the first task and then gotten better throughout the competition with my best flight in the last day. Hoping to continue the trend and get a redemption flight later this week!

At least my lunch snack didn't involve prunes like some unlucky pilot got in their grab bag on launch today (ha ha Jacques):

Drove back to HQ in the van of shame with a few other unfortunate souls. Good news is that George launched just before me and managed to get up! This was his first task at his first comp and he was so stoked to fly well today. A lot of happy pilots around HQ tonight!

Day 3 Katja twin moth biplane 

Day Two Monday

No task for today but they announced it early so pilots could free fly if they wanted to try before it blew out. It seemed possible when we arrived on launch and watched a couple of mini wings playing in the lift band. Then some locals and pilots on higher performance wings took off and when they got parked above launch we threw our gear back in the truck and drove down. 

We drove into Granby with Andrew & Hammer for a surprisingly healthy lunch at (so hard to find when you're on the road!) at Presse Cafe and made it back to HQ just in time for the talk that James Bradley put on about competition flying. With a small group everyone could ask questions and other experienced comp pilots happily jumped in with answers and entertaining stories from past events. 

One more round of pilots went up to launch around 7 hoping for an evening flight but I didn't feel like driving up & back down again (it still seemed windy to me). Sure enough they found too much wind at launch & had to come back.

In the meantime our host Jacques buzzed launch and the LZ in his ultralight (after contacting us to make sure that no one was flying) and gave us a little show before flying off into the sunset. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Day one - Sunday

The weather system that stopped us from flying yesterday was still hanging around this morning. We were hoping for a quick flight before the bad weather moved in, but when we got to launch and finished setting up our gear the sky already looked like this:

And pretty soon it looked like this:

And when we drove down and got back to HQ it looks like this:

So we were ok with the call to cancel today's task and are all eager for Tuesday to roll around which looks like the first task-able day (although if we're really lucky it could be tomorrow!). 

Looking on the bright side it was nice to have a "dress rehearsal" - we took the chance to set up our kits on launch and make sure we had enough batteries and lanyards for our instruments and all that good stuff. 

The task committee came up with a short task in case we could fly before the storm came, so we dug out our gps units to see if we remembered how to input everything. I haven't entered a task into my Flytec 6020 since my last comp which was here in 2013 (!) and forgot how simple it was - there's a setting called "competition route" so I just had to input information as the different fields were highlighted for me. I knew there was a reason I got one! 

After the rain passed through, a bunch of us took Jimmy up on his offer of a BBQ back at his motel. His teriyaki/sriracha chicken and George's veggies steamed with oranges, raspberry and basil were big hits, topped only by the tall tales that escalated as the night went on. Hoping we'll have some new flying stories to talk about tomorrow evening!

Practice Day

We had an idea from looking at the weather forecast that Saturday (sign-in and practice day) would not be flyable. Sure enough on the drive to Headquarters we saw some incredible and massive cloud development. 

So after signing in and catching up with old friends, Jacques (the local Skywalk dealer) let me take his Tonic kiting. The Tonic is one of the few mini wings that has an EN rating and is still classified as a paraglider, but is still small enough to take out and play with in strong winds like we were experiencing. It was a great way to practice inflating and controlling a glider in winds that I wouldn't feel comfortable using my full size glider in, and tons of fun. Someone was snapping photos so if I get my hands on a copy I'll post the evidence. 

The winds weren't calming down so we decided to call it a day and do some microbrew testing instead. Fingers crossed for good weather for Day 1!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Countdown to the Paragliding Nationals!

Countdown to the Nats is on!

That means tying up loose ends at work, and the fun stuff like last night when I received my box of goodies from Skywalk paragliders! It was full of clothes and gear - some of which I ordered and some was new and shiny Team Pilot swag. I'm a mail junkie to start with (and am probably one of the last people alive to still have a pen pal), so parcels are like a letter x 1000 on my excitement scale. I'm kind of like a 5 year old on sugar when the delivery truck pulls up. 

So now the fun/not fun process of packing begins. I ordered a new glider bag which is super streamlined so will be lighter in my harness when flying and will take up way less room. It's also ergonomically designed for hiking, which I swear I'm going to get back into this fall. 

Anyway, since I mentioned I'm totally like a kid - wanna see my new stuff???

And here's the new glider bag with my whole kit in it - bulky pod (cocoon) harness and all:  

 3 more days!!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Today was my summer vacation.  As grown-ups, I think a lot of us have to make any block of time off be our vacation time, whether it be a weekend, a day or even just an afternoon to go explore.  

My perfect day went like this: stay in bed till 9:30, make my morning coffee last for an hour and then pack up all my flying gear for the great flying day ahead! I had offered to show a few new-to-the-area pilots around, so at 1:30 my boyfriend happily loaded up his pickup with about a dozen eager pilots and up the mountain we went.

The day didn't look entirely promising - if you think in surfing terms it did not seem like a "big wave" kind of day.  More like a day with lots of paddling and a few mediocre waves.  But by the time we launched the day had switched on, and I bet there were 20 pilots in the sky within half an hour.  It was actually kind of aggressive - at times I felt like my paraglider was like a horse trying to get away from me and I had to pull hard on the reins to keep her in place.  And even being a rusty-ass pilot who's barely flown this year, I managed to stay up for over an hour and complete a fun little triangle on Leonardo (an online contest we upload our flights to).

When you have a day with rough spots of lift in the air, there are also lots of areas with sink, and when you watch the numbers on your altimeter drop, you want to find rising air as quickly as possible.  A few years ago I went searching online for a small audio-only vario (altimeter) to stick on my helmet, and after emailing a bunch of companies for information I chose the Nanovario by Flytepark. The customer service I received was outstanding, and personally I loved the uber-sensitivity of the little unit which saved my butt on a few flights!  So I approached the company to be their distributor here in Western Canada and have never regretted it. For me, customer service means as much to me as the actual product, and Flyte Park continually delivers top notch service. Their products are also made close to home in the USA which is a nice touch!  That's why I continue to sell their products and am thrilled to have them as a sponsor.  Thanks Flyte Park!

So at the end of the day when anyone asks me "What did you do on your summer vacation?", I'll definitely tell them tales from this awesome day - including making a bunch of new friends from around the world, having an extra glass of wine with the delicious BBQ my boyfriend cooked for us, and maybe even about the fact that I've been pretending I'm not leaving in 4 days for the Nationals and haven't even started packing yet!   #procrastinator

Flying back to the mountain after snooping around the valley

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Competition Time!

With temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celcius all week, it looks like summer has finally decided to show up and stay for a while!

Last weekend I got to fly a couple of tandems and enjoy the fact I was getting too much sun. With the Canadian Nationals fast approaching and my plane ticket booked, it's time I re-acclimatize to a lot of things - flying, spending a whole day outside in the sun without eating...the usual paragliding kind of day that I've missed out on most of this season. It felt great. 

People keep asking how we train for paragliding competitions, and there's no simple answer. Even at the World Cup level you have pilots who work full-time and only get to fly a few times per year (usually only at competitions) that are flying wingtip-to-wingtip with pilots who fly nearly every day. A combination of skill and luck determines who goes home with the trophy each time, but regardless of your standings everyone agrees that you learn more in a week of flying at a comp than a year of flying on your own. The win is a nice touch, but it really is one of those instances where you are richer just for the experience.

I'm getting really excited now and counting down the days til I leave, and thought I'd take a moment to talk about my sponsors. I've been fortunate enough to be a Team Pilot for Skywalk Paragliders for the last few years.  It's great to be part of a team and have that support, and since I believe in their products and flying philosophy it's easy to talk about their gear and promote them in return.

I was hoping to be on a new glider for the Nationals, but the wing I'm waiting on is still finishing up in the testing process.  Going back to the philosophy of Skywalk they believe in producing the best and safest products possible, and if that means delaying the release of a glider to tweak a few more things instead of releasing it when it's "good enough", then I'm happy to wait a little longer. Besides, I'm not too upset to stay on my current wing since the Cayenne 4 helped me bring home the trophy the last time I went to the Nationals!  

The Cayenne 4 has been such a good wing to me that I've already been experiencing separation anxiety at the thought of having to sell her.  This was my first Skywalk wing and the one that brought me so many firsts - first top landing at my home site (Woodside), first trophy I've won (Canadian Nationals 2013), first flight at a National Park (Jasper 2015) and first photoshoot for Red Bull…well, kind of.  A friend of mine was working in promotions for Red Bull Canada and was submitting a project to apply for a different position.  She asked to take pictures of me paragliding, and it was the first time I flew "for the camera" rather than simply searching the sky for thermals, wherever they may be.  It was an amazing experience but unfortunately her laptop was stolen along with the memory card and we never got to see the finished product.  However it did show me the versatility of the glider - I had to do tons of flybys and try to maintain the same altitude to get the shots just right. My Cayenne seemed to fly effortlessly and find the lift on it's own as I talked on the radio with my photographer in trying to get the right angles.  That experience came in handy later when I flew my Skywalk Join't (tandem wing) for a commercial project - same idea but this time trying to stay out of the shot as my photographer filmed the action beside us in the air.

But, with new advances every year in the flying scene it's time to get a new paraglider!  So until it's ready I'll keep flying my pretty purple wing.  And in the meantime I'll be running outside to check for the UPS truck every 5 minutes tomorrow afternoon as there is a parcel of Skywalk goodies arriving just in the nick of time to come to Quebec with me. Thank you Skywalk!

ps If you are looking to buy a new or used wing, send a note via my website and I'll put you in touch with my boyfriend George, who just happens to be the local Skywalk dealer.  Did I mention I love everything Skywalk?

My trusty Skywalk Cayenne 4, coming to the Nationals with me again!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Looking back through the rain

Ah…the May long weekend.  The unofficial start to summer in Canada, and almost guaranteed to rain in BC as everyone heads out camping.  That held true this year, and it was a wet weekend with no flying locally (although I did find out just how much rain you can golf in!).

This past weekend was also the anniversary of my first solo flight, but without any flyable weather here to celebrate I'm looking back to some recent (ish) paragliding fun.  Last year around this time I was lucky enough to take part in filming a commercial for the L Series lens from Canon.  The commercial featured Canadian Red Bull athlete Will Gadd (video link at bottom of post) and followed him using a Canon camera while pursuing some of his favourite activities.  In the course of a couple of days he got to climb, paddle and paraglide, all of it right here in Beautiful BC.

For the paragliding portion we had 2 tandem paraglider pilots and of course Will flying solo.  I took the stills photographer for the print campaign (check out her amazing portfolio at while another local pilot took the videographer. Here's a behind-the-scenes shot of Will (centre of photo) and the videographer-tandem as we all flew into position for the next portion of filming.  It was a very cool learning experience, figuring out how to get shots without being in the shots and flying around Will while trying to keep in the thermals!  

Behind the scenes in the Fraser Valley (click to enlarge)

A long time ago, I used to work "in the movies" as an assistant director, but this was unlike anything I had ever done before. Between the weather magically clearing as our "call time" approached and plenty of thermals popping up to help us get the shots, it was a perfect day that I was proud to be a part of.

So without further ado…here's the finished video (you may have already watched this on the big screen last year waiting for your movie to start or seen the huge photos while picking up your bags at the airport):  

Thursday, May 5, 2016


When I was hoping for some good flying karma after my less-than-spectacular flight display at Benny, I didn't expect it to come so soon.  In fact, karma only took about 24 hours to bestow it's magic.

Monday after work looked great, so my boyfriend and I decided to burn over to our closest flying site (Bridal Falls) and if nothing else, get a short end-of-day flight in.  We met at the landing field at 5:30pm and by the time we got in the air it was after 6, so really we weren't expecting much.

George had gone first, so after my take off I looked around and saw him already about 100 metres over launch.  Yippee!  I zipped over towards him and found a very light but continuous thermal, and slowwwwly made my way up to the old "upper" launch.  Back in the day before we would fly for points (most pilots submit gps track logs to online contests for fun and glory), we would used to fly to Upper (which is twice the height of the lower launch) and top land.  First pilot of the season to do it was the bravest because you never knew how deep the snow was - if it was too deep you may not be able to relaunch and have a long hike down.  But if it was packed enough to run off again, then a whole gaggle of pilots would land there and soak up some sun and just hang out for fun.

Upper Launch…where the cool kids used to hang out.

At this point George had ridden the thermals up to 1900 metres and had flown over the valley to do some sight seeing.  I flew over to the end of the ridge to a point we call "Gloria", and was about to go join George on his valley tour when I saw Mia coming to join me.  It's always fun to fly with another girl, so I waited and am glad I did…she found a great thermal for us!  After topping out we parted ways - Mia flew across the gap to Elk Mountain, and I thought I'd see if I could retrace my steps and headed towards Mt Cheam.

Mia is that tiny dot next to the red sunspot.  

At the end of the day, I didn't make it to Cheam but did get about an hour of flying, 1600 metres maximum height and some points on our online contest for flying a triangle task.  Best end to a workday ever.  Thank you karma!

Flying into the sunset.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wind Dummy

When going paragliding, you often see pilots sitting around on launch waiting for "someone else" to go first.  Since the air is invisible you never really know if the thermals are strong enough yet or if the first pilot to venture into the air is going to sink out.  So you all look around waiting for the least patient in the bunch to announce…

"I'll be wind dummy!"

(If you're being politically correct you use the term "wind technician" but we all know what that means, even if you do say it nicely.)

Mt Benny…nice to see you again!

Today we went flying at one of our lesser used sites, one I haven't flown at for at least 5 years and have only flown 2 or 3 times total.  So really I shouldn't have volunteered to be wind dummy but for whatever reason I was really anxious to get in the air today and I asked the magic question…

"Does anyone else want to go first?"


And so I launched, turning to the right (just like Hammer suggested) and found some ratty lift.  I stayed in long enough to get above launch but it was pretty punchy so I decided to snoop around for some nicer air.  Instead I ran into the Sink Monster and being alone in the air had no visuals of other pilots going up to try and save myself.  By this point it was obvious the winds were coming from different directions at launch height (east - over the back) and at the ground (west), making for a mixed bag of conditions which unfortunately did not include nice big happy thermals.

Sink Monsters
Not being familiar with the site and having lost a bunch of valuable altitude to the aforementioned sink monster, I begrudgingly headed towards the landing field. The field is large and covered in dandelions going to seed so it was a pretty show…the white puffs swirling around me like snow as I plowed a trail through the long grass.  Poetic, really.

Despite the brevity of my flight, I did get to fly somewhere different and that's something to be excited about!  Hopefully I put some money in the karma bank with my valiant wind dummy effort and my next flight will be super epic.

Launch is on the second mountain back. Landing field has dandelions aplenty.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spring 2016

I moved away from blogging a couple of years ago but have found myself missing it lately.  So many friends have been stretching their creative muscles - singing, drawing, wood working, painting - and therein lies the inspiration to bring back the blog.

A brief update since the last post - I ran my paragliding business full time for about a year and found while I enjoyed the technical aspects (networking, building the business, etc) that turning my passion into a job was not what I'd hoped it would be. Guilt would creep in on the rare occasion I chose to fly solo… that little voice would nag that I "should" be teaching while the sun was shining instead of playing around.  Living in a climate prone to rain and having a business based 100% on the weather means you often have to make an either/or choice, as opposed to running a flying business in California where I imagine you would rarely run out of flyable days and have plenty of time for both work and play.

Sharing this sport is still important and a lot of fun, so I'll continue to fly a limited number of tandems this year while switching my main focus back to solo flying.  For extra incentive to keep on track I'll be traveling out to Quebec this summer to compete in the Canadian Paragliding Nationals again.  It's a pretty big undertaking considering I haven't flown any "big" flights in the last couple of years but biting off more than I can chew is what I do!

That being said, it wasn't all work and no play over the last couple of years - some pretty cool stuff happened too.  One of the most exciting was being selected to participate in the first legal paragliding flights in Jasper, Alberta.  Up until now, free flight has not been allowed in any national park, either in Canada or the USA.  About 10 years ago, our national organization ( started working with Parks Canada to change the regulations.  While there is still a lot of work to be done and flying is currently only permitted in Jasper with a number of conditions to meet (please visit for information), we did have a successful first flight and are looking forward to more parks opening up to us in the future.

Here's a little video I made of the occasion…the cheesy song seemed a perfect fit as we look for more freedom in our flying locations ;)