Though it still hasn’t been accepted for the Winter Olympics, Speed Flying is gaining more traction (or should we say air?) every day among a new generation of extreme sports.
What is speed flying? Two words: parachute, skis. It was created by some needy extreme athletes – skydivers and paragliders who also had a love of skiing.
There are currently an estimated 5,000 speed flyers worldwide, with most being around France and Switzerland. French mountaineers are generally credited with creating the sport in the 1970s when someone had the great idea of launching parachutes from snowbound cliffs on skis.
This was an era of swift experimentations among sky divers. Parachutes, meanwhile, evolved into larger, easier to launch wings now called paragliders. More advances in materials arrived over the years, inspiring a new generation of speed flying pilots in France and America in the 1990s.
Then, foot-launched parachute slalom course competitions known as Blade Running (or Runner) competitions started in the Western United States in 1996, followed by the Blade Raid in 2005.
Americans took the sport to the next level, with an American team of stunt parachutists making videos skimming mountain slopes in the Alps from 2001 to 2002. One team member opened the first ‘Ground Launching School’ for foot-launched parachutes in 2004 in California, USA.
Yes, it’s extremely dangerous. But that’s why it’s called an extreme sport, right? Wings can reach speeds in excess of 100 mph in the hands of the top speed flyers but normally are flown in the 35 to 70 mph range. But unlike paragliding, you don’t have a reserve/safety parachute if anything goes wrong.
Repeat: there’s no reserve chute.
To sober you up just a tad, check out this speed flying “accidents compilation.” Then decide if it’s right for you. Godspeed.