For those hitting the slopes this year, speed riding is one the newest sports to try if you’re looking for your next adrenalin rush.
With more than 20 years flying paragliding and 10 years teaching paragliding, competition winner and speed rider Arnaud Baumy offers his expert advice on learning the sport at Speed Riding School in Les Arcs, France.
We spoke with him for tips on how to get started with this growing winter sport.
For those who don’t know it, how would you describe speed riding?
It’s a mix between skiing and paragliding, but we use a smaller wing to ski with the glider and fly when wanted.
What is the history of speed riding? Is it becoming more popular?
The first speed riders were paragliding pilots in the 80s taking off with skis from ski resorts. They were using skydive canopies that were quite big, so they were going quite slow.
What we call speed riding really appeared later, in 2002 in France, when we started to use smaller gliders to really stick with the ground. More and more people are now learning and practising it — it had a big rush in Europe during its first few years and it’s now becoming more famous in North America.
Who can try it? Are there restrictions in terms of age or fitness level? Is it just for adventurous types?
There is a legal minimum age of 14 in France, but apart from that every good skier can try it and learn it. If you are at ease on black runs you should be fine — skiing has to be natural so you can focus on steering the glider. And it’s not only for those who are adventurous — if you like skiing fast and are interested in air sports you will love it!
How can someone get started?
If you are interested it is vital to take the time to learn the basics. Find a professional who can teach the activity safely and in the right location. And of course first you need to be a good skier!
If you want to try it, contact a school; don’t go on your own or with a friend who has little experience.
Do people need to buy any special gear or equipment?
At our school the rental of specific speed riding equipment is included — glider, harness, helmet, back protection, avalanche transceiver and radios with earpieces. Our students only need to come with skis — their own or rented. Check with your school before you arrive.
Your speedriding school is based in Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France. What other areas around the world are good for the sport?
Tarentaise Valley in Savoie, France is great as the ski resorts are huge. Also in France, Les Arcs-La Plagne, Tignes-Val d’Isère, and Les Trois-Vallées have amazing off-piste potential and so are great speedriding spots. There also many other places, for example Courmayeur in Italy or les Diablerets in Switzerland — actually anywhere with great off-piste skiing potential is a good place for speedriding.
Is speedriding safe?
It can be really safe or really dangerous depending on the conditions and the place. We have been teaching for 10 years now and have never had to call the ski patrol...There are some things you can be careful with such as:
* wind and snow conditions
*using equipment in good condition
*being careful to avoid obstacles (stones, wires, skiers...)
*being fit, awake and clear.
And in my opinion, the most important thing is to be able to keep cool and not let adrenalin guide your decisions.
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