From paragliding and speed flying Sun Valley to ski tuning, Nordic Town USA, Baldy's Big Mountain Skiers and this Winter's Art Scene.
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Why walk down the mountain when you can fly?
Will Burks gets ready for flight. Photo Aaron Beck
For some adrenaline and speed junkies out there simply bombing down a mountain on skis or rising up above it while paragliding isn’t enough. So they’ve figured out a way to combine the two. Life-long local Will “Huck” Burks is one of the truly extreme athletes who participates in the growing sport of speed flying.
“You can fly the mountain, essentially,” he says. “It’s pretty incredible.”
The gist of speed flying is that a skier releases a much smaller version of a paragliding canopy and then starts carving turns and literally catching air, when terrain allows (or warrants) it, while descending the mountain.
“It’s about contouring the terrain,” says Burks, who earned his nickname for hucking huge air while skiing. He explains that a speed flyer can buzz just a few feet above the surface for hundreds of yards or soar as high as 1,800 feet above if the winds are right.
You can be as high as you want or you can barely touch the ground,” Burks says. “It appeals to sky divers, paragliders and BASE jumpers, but it’s also in the family of skiing. So it’s a sport that’s appealing to lots of people.”
Speed flying isn’t just limited to snow covered slopes. In the summer, a slightly different version of the sport referred to as ground launching allows participants to soar their way down almost any mountain.
And since the canopies are much smaller than a paraglider and therefore weigh less, it allows speed-fliers to take their kits almost anywhere. Burks has flown off the Boulder Mountains, Hyndman Peak and even from the highest point in Idaho, Mount Borah (12,662’).
“It gives you the ability to hike wherever you want because it’s so light. You could hike any mountain in the Valley and go speed flying,” he says.
So the next time you see something flying down a local mountain and wonder, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” don’t be surprised if it’s just another speed and adrenaline junky like Will Burks getting a fix. -Mike McKenna