Paraglide New England Launches New Experience

 December 26, 2016 - The first "business meeting." The three partners discussed goals, instruction philosophies, and kicked around a number of potential business names.

December 26, 2016 - The first "business meeting." The three partners discussed goals, instruction philosophies, and kicked around a number of potential business names.

In this post...

  • A Little Housekeeping
  • Introductions
  • A Brief History
  • The Struggle is Real
  • Cleared For Launch
  • A Festive End to 2017
  • Preparing For 2018

A Little Housekeeping

Welcome to the new Paraglide New England blog. With 2017 quickly receding in our rear-view mirror, I wanted to take a moment to recap a bit of last year and look ahead at what’s in store for Paraglide New England (PGNE) in 2018 and beyond. So, what better way than to kick off 2018 by adding a blog to our site!

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Introductions

I’ll just quickly introduce ourselves for those who may just be discovering us.

Paraglide New England was started by Calef Letorney, Paul Somerset and Ryan Dunn. You can read each of our profiles in more detail or contact us individually at www.paraglidenewengland.com/instructors

Boom! Done!

Seriously though, we’re amped up for what we’ve started and we think you will be too!

 

A Brief History

The business officially launched in the summer of 2017, but the spark for this project came at the end of the 2016 flying season. Paul recently moved to Montpelier wrapping up a 20 year paragliding, skydiving, BASE jumping pilgrimage around the world. He introduced himself to Calef shortly after saying, “Hey, I’ve got a boat and a winch. Know anyone who wants to tow over Lake Champlain?”

I landed on the New England paragliding scene in the spring of 2015 after training in Utah and itching to make maneuvers (SIV) training a regular part of my regular routine. For Calef, arguably one of the most passionate ambassadors for the sport of paragliding throughout New England, the significance of the moment was obvious.

So it was in December of 2016 after Calef and I returned from a flying trip to Valle de Bravo, Mexico that he pitched me and Paul the notion of combining our efforts and resources to start Paraglide New England. We were a “go” at least in mind and spirit right off the bat. Now we needed to organize!

 

The Struggle is Real

 Calef kites a BGD Adam student wing

Calef kites a BGD Adam student wing

So what drives us? What’s our mission? Well, we see it like this. Here we are in beautiful, bucolic New England– a premier tourist and adventure destination. Yet the sport of paragliding here sometimes feels a bit “off the map”. Yes, there is a passionate crew of pilots throughout the area. But in terms of the public’s recognition of the sport compared to that of other adventure sports, it lags behind a bit. Sure, our mountains are not the Alps or the Rockies, but those in the know, know that the paragliding (along with countless other adventures) throughout the northeast can be fantastic! And summers on Lake Champlain can be absolutely stunning! So why isn’t there a stronger paragliding presence?

After more than 10 years soaring in the northeast Calef knows all about the struggle to gain experience and progress as a paraglider in our region. Besides finicky weather, the biggest challenge he’s observed for any up-and-coming crew of pilots boiled down to the barrier-to-entry and continued education with advanced training options beyond the basics. While some New England area pilots began their flying instruction locally, many dedicated, passionate pilots learned elsewhere.  

When it comes time to pursue maneuvers (SIV) training, a vital step in progressing a pilot’s skills AND safety– well, sort out your vacation time and head west! (or Europe or Florida). While practicing maneuvers is rewarding, I’m sure I’m not alone feeling like if I’m going to travel somewhere to fly, I’d prefer focus on other aspects of my flying, not just doing SIV. Travel is all well and good, but really, do you want to feel like you have to devote vacation time to do maneuvers training? This was the common thread Calef, Paul and I saw as inhibiting growth of the sport in our region. That’s about to change!

Cleared for Launch

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So last season was devoted to putting the pieces in place to offer New England paragliding pilots an experience that simply doesn’t exist in our region. When we weren’t completing countless applications and documents outlining our procedures and plans for insurance purposes, we were rehearsing our routine “in the field”. In addition to Paul’s boat and winch, we added a second, top-of-the-line, Cloudstreet Superwinch giving us greater capability to tow both on land and over the water. We developed strong relations with the towns of Moriah and Port Henry, NY and secured a lease to run our tow operation from the Moriah Campsite & Beach on Bulwagga Bay Lake Champlain.

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We developed our connections with equipment suppliers and grew our collection of school wings and supplies. We lay the groundwork for a variety of instruction sites. By the end of summer, we had most of the pieces in place and were able to declare Paraglide New England operational! Even with an abbreviated season we were active with students right away and through the end of fall even as snow arrived.

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A Festive Close to 2017

December 2017 brought with it the anticipation of the first guided trip PGNE would offer clients to Mexico. Read a full trip report in our entry New England Paragliders in Valle de Bravo 2017. It’s a location Paul, Calef and I are all very familiar with and was the logical choice for a first tour. We had so much interest we had to divide clients over two separate nine day trips. But the trip actually kicked off a couple weeks before even arriving in Mexico when I hosted a day-long, intensive trip briefing and prep session at my house. Calef provided comprehensive site planning and strategy discussion. Paul conducted reserve repacks and we ran harness simulations and fine tuning for those interested.

By the time we were on launch at Valle de Bravo, all PGNE clients felt familiar with the surroundings and were able to focus on executing what they learned during the flight briefing back home. And they crushed it! Our first week in Mexico was superb with weather conditions to match! Several clients of our first week’s group made repeat flights to the lake (a technical 9 mile cross country flight) and all made tremendous strides in wing handling and flying confidence. Even our week two “veterans”, gained new insights and pushed new boundaries. Part of the success for both weeks was video review of all launches. This offered everyone greater insight and the opportunity to continue looking for ways to improve throughout the trip. Great job to all of those who went with us and thanks for helping share the love!

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Preparing for 2018

Coming off the success of our 2017 season and with the holidays now behind us, we look ahead to the 2018 season with great anticipation. Our first objective for the off-season was to reinforce our tow capabilities and in mid January put a deposit on a second boat. Pending any major unforeseen issues during inspection, PGNE will be adding a 23’ Mako Deep-V Center Console boat to the mix for added capability of our tow operations. We will run dedicated over-the-water maneuvers (SIV) training clinics from June - September and we already have pilots signing up!

We obviously recognize flying in New England during the winter hits a low point, but that just opens up opportunity for PGNE to scout future destinations. This February/March, Paul, another local pilot Eric Esser, and I  will be scouting Tenerife (Spain, Canary Islands). In March/April I will be in Salt Lake City briefly to continuing expanding my exploits in Utah. So stay tuned for more information as we explore new locals.

By the end of April, New England will be thawing out and our focus will be towing preparations and kiting lessons… But when the weather cooperates we are keen to teach all winter long.  We anticipate the start of mountain flying sometime in late April or early May. As summer progresses we’ll continue expanding knowledge in the mountains for pilots throughout the northeast. We are also looking forward to many forays into neighboring Quebec. But now, local pilots also have something else new to look forward to– the splendid view from 4,000 above Lake Champlain and the exhilaration of seeing how fast you can get down to the beach!

We look forward to, and wish all our fellow free flight pilots, fantastic flying ahead in 2018!

See you in the skies,

The PGNE team