Daredevil Ski Holidays – Speed Riding

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What’s the quickest way to get from the summit of Mt. Bellecote, whereon sits the popular ski resort of La Plagne, to its foot, 3400m below?

By skiing, of course. But before strapping on a brand new pair of Fischer skis, taking a moment to repent your sins, and launching yourself from the heady perch with the careless abandon of a man or woman who has nothing left to live for, there’s another piece of equipment you’ll need. A parachute.

This combination of ski and parachute means that you’re no longer skiing, but speed riding.

Speed riding takes the familiar principle of skiing down a slope and transports it to the mountainside, throwing in rocky outcrops, sheer drops and the risk of avalanche for good measure. Obviously, anybody attempting this under normal circumstances would be on a fast track to a broken neck, but the element of paragliding that the parachute adds ensures an as near to smooth descent as is possible. Basically, when you run out of agreeable ground you take to the air.

This most exhilarating of extreme sports was invented late in 2003 by a group of paragliders, including amongst their number Francois Bon who has gone on to become one of the leading lights in the sport. Early in 2008 Bon could be seen on the BBC’s flagship Top Gear show, putting the sport of speed riding to the test when he raced Richard Hammond, driving an Audi RS6, down the side of a mountain. The combination of skiing and paragliding won.

Specially customised canopies are utilised, around half the size of the ones used in paragliding, which causes the daring skier to skim along the surface and when the time comes effectively float over any oncoming obstacle. This is achieved by tugging a cord which causes you to lift into the air, but not high enough so that you’re sent sailing off at a tangent for an abrupt meeting with an opposing cliff face. That is why considerably smaller canopies are used. They’re also used for braking, which can be quite handy when hurtling face first down the side of a mountain at speeds of up 75mph.

As with any extreme sport, speed riding is extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, and dangerous even when you do. However, it has a better safety record than other similar pursuits and it is possible to buy insurance if you’ve the inclination to take it up.

Something which a great many skiers are doing. The popularity of this literally breathtaking variation upon the more familiar pastime of skiing has swept across the ski resorts and communities of Europe, spreading from its birthplace in France, along the Alpine backbone to Switzerland, and onwards to Italy, Germany and Austria. Equipment is designed and sold specifically for the purpose and there are tournaments, events and championships springing up all over the place.

An ability to ski is naturally a prerequisite for anybody seriously considering swelling the ranks of those already entrenched in the sport of speed riding, and some experience of paragliding is also a benefit. There are instructors available and designated practice slopes to bring you up to speed.

So next time you’re on a skiing holiday and you’ve taken time out to scale one of the nearby mountain peaks, only to realise you’ve left your chalet door open; strap on your skis and parachute and take to the air. You’ll be home before you know it.

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Source by Nicholas James

Agnes Brown

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