Paragliding over Aspen offers beautiful views and a thrilling adventure

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
Aspen Paragliding owner Alex Palmaz gathers his wing after landing in the Northstar Preserve.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

The sound of the breeze flapping against a parachute is the only noise you can hear during an early morning on Aspen Mountain — that is until a countdown sends you airborne off a steep slope and suddenly you’re flying.

Peaceful and exhilarating are two words that aren’t typically used together, but they’re the words Patrick Henry uses to describe paragliding in the mountains. One minute you’re anticipating the launch and the next minute you’re soaring above the mountains with arguably one of the most spectacular views of town.

“Everybody’s nervous to start,” said Henry, an Aspen Paragliding instructor. “But once they get going, 99 percent of people say how comfortable and peaceful it is.”

Tandem pilots are able to tailor the experience — and the level of thrill — to meet individuals’ desires and bravery.

For a more thrilling experience, he said pilots may make aggressive, acrobatic maneuvers — such as a spiral dive or a wingover, which he described as sharp, 180-degree turns to the left and right.

“Some people love that, and some just aren’t interested at all,” Henry said.

Tandem paragliders who don’t care for that “lose your stomach” roller-coaster sensation, as Aspen Paragliding owner Alex Palmaz put it, may just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride and the views.

People often use the word “freeing” to describe the experience of paragliding, Palmaz said.

On a good summer day, paragliders may reach as high as 14,000 feet.

The key to paragliding in the mountains is to catch “thermals,” which are warm air pockets that allow fliers to soar higher, Palmaz said.

Catching these warm air currents not only maximizes one’s duration in the air, which typically lasts about 15 to 30 minutes, but it also makes for the best conditions for paragliding.

Palmaz said that a “thermal day” in paragliding is equivalent to a powder day in skiing or snowboarding.

Top-notch paragliding conditions also include sunny, warmer weather, along with light and variable winds between elevations of 9,000 and 18,000 feet.

Aspen Paragliding runs trips beginning in mid-May or June 1 until the first or second week of October, depending on snow conditions.

The company’s office is located above Butcher’s Block at 426 South Spring St. Aspen Paragliding runs three paragliding trips — at 6:45, 8:15 and 10:15 — on Aspen Mountain each morning. The earlier two flights take off from Walsh’s run, while the 10:15 a.m. trip takes flight off of Ruthie’s run.

For more information or to schedule a paragliding adventure, call Aspen Paragliding at 970-379-6975 or email