Speed riding

    What is Speed riding?

    Speed riding is a new extreme sport combining skiing and paragliding. The basics are simple- put your skies on, strap yourself to an open wing- shaped canopy and start skiing down the slope. There are no limits on how steep the slope is, or how big the jumps are. If it’s too steep you just go airborn and maneuver yourself down until you touch the snow again.

    Speed riding has its roots in the 70′s in France, when the mountaineers started experimenting with launching themselves from steep mountain slopes while skiing. Very quickly the parachutes evolved to wing- like canopies similar to those used in paragliding. The successful idea took off in the US in the 90′s. Since then, more and more adrenaline junkies who loved skiing discovering this wonderful extreme sport and it became quit popular. Today’s canopies are specially made for speed flying and speed riding.

    Speed riding is similar to speed flying. The difference between the two is in the launching method. While in Speed flying you launch yourself by your feet, in Speed riding you do it wearing skies, which you get to keep on your way down, skiing on the snowy slope if you don’t have enough altitude to cross it, or just for fun.

    The canopy itself is called Speed Wing (also Speed Flyer and Speed Glider in some places). The Speed Wing consisits of cells open only at the leading edge. Inflated by the stream of air from the forward movement, it takes the shape of a wing that produce lift, very much like the canopies in Paragliding and Skydiving.

    But there the similarity ends. Speed Wing is about half the size of a paragliding canopy and almost twice as fast, and the descend ratio won’t let you stay in the air as long as a parachute would. Although Speed Wing looks like a modern parachute canopy to the untrained eye, it is a lot lighter and maneuverable and isn’t designed to withstand the aerodynamic pressure of a free fall stop.

    The Speed Wings of Speed Riding and Speed Flying are also different, mostly in size. The Speed flying is designed for slower launches (launching by foot) and so are usually larger, about 13m² – 18m² and the Speed Riding Speed wings are smaller, about 6m²- 14m² for faster launches (launching while you are skiing) at .

    Here we will be speaking about Speed Riding, or Para ski (Paraskiing) because, from our point of view it is more extreme and more varied than plain Speed Flying.

    It’s difficult to determine whether this extreme sport belongs to the “air” family or the “snow” family but since you can decide for yourself where you are going to spend more time on your run down the mountain, it doesn’t really matter, right?


    What’s extreme about it?

    Speed riding gives you the rush resembling rush proximity wingsuit flying and speed hang gliding, but with some of its own sweets and treats of adrenaline candies.

    In Speed riding you can go as fast as 80 knots (144 km/h), and its canopy maneuverability and small size allows you to go inside very tight places with it. The beauty of it is that you can combine skiing with flying sharpens the feeling of freedom even more.

    Imagine yourself skiing on a slope, increasing your speed until at some point you are lifting up from the snow. Now imagine that you are coming fast and low above the snow, there is no way you can pass above the surface, you are too low, the skies touch the snow, the body weight transfers from the harness to the legs…you are skiing at about 90 km/h… right out of cliff…then you are airborne again, maneuvering yourself to the next adrenaline dose.

    But the most exiting thing in this extreme sport is the aggressive maneuverability of the small Speed Wings in the proximity to the changing terrain. You can pull pretty decent G’s with it. One of the biggest adrenaline rush is when you succeeding to perfectly control with aggression yourself in a demanding surroundings with a perfect balance… this is the purest form of adrenaline, this is why we do all these sorts of extreme sports… To be in a place or a situation that normal people can’t, challenge the lows of physics. This is the secret that they will never understand and Speed riding opens you to it all and more…


    How dangerous is it?

    Para Skiing (Speed riding) is quite dangers because of the proximity to the ground and the high speed. Comparing to proximity Wingsuit Flying you have more control of your speed and height, on the other hand, if you don’t try to pass over rocky segments at low altitude and do your low flybys over snow then even if you misjudge your speed or altitude, you can always hit the snow and ski yourself away until you gain enough speed to get airborn again. This is a luxury that proximity Wingsuit Flying and Speed hanggliding don’t have.

    With all of that said Speed riding is still a dangerous extreme sport even if you are a pro. There are severe injuries and death is a possibility more frequently as a result of hitting some object in flight then from bad landings.

    Like in any other extreme sport, it all comes down to you and how you choose to manage your safety margins. You may keep them very wide, but then you stop getting the adrenaline trip and get bored. Or you can leave them very narrow and always “be on the edge”, but then the risks will be too high and you probably won’t survive long.

    So in the end, it’s all about the balance between self-control and temptation to get higher rush.


    How to start?

    First of all, if you want to do Speed riding, you should learn ski well.

    It is true that you can skip the skiing stage and look for sites where you can fly down without touching the snow after the launch. But it will limit your versatility drastically, and you’ll lose half of the fun in this extreme sport.

    After you got yourself pretty good skiing skills you should attend a Para skiing school. There are more and more schools out there and more and more forums of adrenaline junkies like you which can help to enter the glorious world of Speed riding.