Flying with the Locals: Classic Gloves Go Paragliding
Give’r Production Associate Alex Bogner spends a good amount of his free time in the sky with a bird’s eye view of Jackson Hole. As temperatures begin to drop and the aspens leaves turn from green to yellow, it’s a little cooler up there, so he’s started bringing his Give’r Classic Gloves along. I sat down to hear all about what drove Alex to learn to paraglide and where he hopes to fly next. Check it out below!
“I’ve always wanted to fly, and paragliding is the least expensive form of human flight. The first time I saw paragliders was when I was a kid at Ellenville Flight Park in New York. In college, I lived at the base of Burke Mountain in Vermont, and I saw people paragliding off the top. That re-sparked the idea for me, and I decided it was time to finally try it out.
To learn to paraglide, you enroll in a school. It’s not recommended to try it without an education. First, you take a course for 14 days or so (depending on the weather windows) and work to get 35 flights and perform a certain number of maneuvers in order to earn your novice rating. I started my flight education two years ago and drove to Vermont nearly every weekend until I got my rating.
Paragliding is something that I was always drawn to independently, and I loved it from day one. I understood immediately why it’s nicknamed “sky crack” and “air pow.” There is no better feeling. The packs we carry are similar to the weight of a big backpacking pack — around 30 pounds or so, but if you bring mini wings or speed wings your pack is smaller.
My favorite place to fly is in Monroe, UT or here in Jackson Hole at Beaver Mountain. One day I hope to paraglide in Valle de Bravo in Mexico — it’s a classic winter site that everybody goes to around December. And, it’s an excuse to go to Mexico. I love that paragliding takes me places I’d never go. I also really want to go to Turkey for acro-paragliding or to Ichicha in Chile where you can fly over massive sand dunes in the Atacama Desert.
Deciding when to launch is a complicated decision. Around town in Jackson we have about 10 different launch sites. It depends on the time of day, direction of the wind, cloud coverage and your overall headspace. Hooking into your glider requires you to be calm and collected. It’s not in your best interest to jump when you’re not ready and that’s when accidents are more likely to happen. It’s important to know when to step away, take a break, and return when you’re more present. Being relaxed and focused is super important. We call it over-piloting your glider when emergency situations arise or you encounter weird weather. When you over-pilot your glider, it can lead to an accident or necessitate a need to throw your reserve parachute.
Eventually I want to be a tandem instructor. Right now, I have my P4 rating and am working on my written exam for my advanced rating, then I need to take the tandem clinic after I have 200 hours of flight time. Right now I have 110. After that, I’ll do a five day clinic plus some required 35 tandem flights with a novice pilot to get my T1 rating, then I’ll pursue my T3 rating and be able to take any willing passenger.
How high I fly depends mostly on where I’m flying. I could be 50 feet up or 18,000 feet high. My highest altitude to date was 14,500 feet which was over Olive Oil in Granite Canyon. I fly as often as I can pretty much on any day that the weather is good. My favorite time to fly is in the evening. It’s usually really nice because the strong conditions from the day have mellowed out. An hour before sunset, you can get what we call “glass off” conditions which is when the whole valley emits heat so you rise easily and the air pow is incredible. Mid day, you have to be way more present because the thermals are less consistent. Thermals are when hot air is going up and cool air is going down which can propel a paraglider up. Dramatic thermals can induce collapses into your wing, but if you’re focused and keep your wing inflated it’ll be the flight of your life.
Just last week I brought my classic gloves on my flight with me! I launched from Nelson’s, which is our usual southwest evening sight, at around 6900 feet. The conditions were pretty strong, and we had a lot of wind so we waited for a bit to get better cycles of wind and thermic activity. Right around 6:30 pm I launched and went straight up to the top of the ridge and started heading north toward town. I crossed Adams Canyon and made it over to Josie’s Ridge and was cruising pretty low around the ridges — maybe a couple hundred feet above. My friend made it over to Crystal Butte, and I thought I had enough lift to land at Crystal too, but I got lift then started soaring with birds about 9,200 feet up. When we see ravens or hawks, we call them locals. It’s one of the best signs of good lift. From there, it was beautiful glass off conditions, and I got to see the alpen glow over the Tetons and Gros Ventre from above. I even got to do my first full power wing overs which is an acro-paragliding move that’s like a half pipe in the sky. It’s a really rhythmic and groovy feeling with tons of adrenaline. I got several rounds of that then finally landed in May Park. It ended up being about a 10 kilometer cross country flight, and my gloves kept me warm the entire time. It was an incredible flight.”
Just a couple days ago, Alex passed his advanced rating written exam and is one step closer to being a tandem instructor. Alex inspires us to follow our unique passions and give them everything we got! We’re so stoked to have him in HQ this winter.