Parafly Paragliding
(802) 879-3507


At 4,052 feet above sea level, Mount Abraham is the fifth highest peak in Vermont's Green Mountains. Like Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, the summit of Mount Abraham is above tree line, where only arctic grasses and low shrubs survive, making it an excellent site to launch a paraglider.

Sunday, June 13, 1993 was predicted to be a fairly calm day with light winds out of the south. My wife, Ruth Masters, and I arose at 5:30 a.m. and headed to Lincoln to rendezvous with one of our paragliding students, Stu Codding, who would be joining us for the two hour ascent up the Long Trail from the Lincoln Gap.

It was a beautiful sunny morning and we all enjoyed the 2.6 mile hike up the Long Trail with our packs containing our paragliders on our backs. We all marveled about the technological breakthroughs of the 1980's that would allow us to fly thousands of feet over the Green Mountain National Forest with a mere 25 pounds of equipment.

Paragliders are the newest form of sport aviation, invented in the European Alps in 1985. Over 90,000 people now enjoy paragliding in Europe; 45,000 in Japan. But in the United States, paragliding has taken much longer to get established, with only 3,000 pilots nationwide today, most of them residing in the West.

Mountain flying (177208 bytes)

We would be the first paraglider pilots to launch from Mount Abraham. We arrived at the summit shortly after 9 a.m. to find a light westerly breeze coming in at about 10 m.p.h. Perfect. The sun was bright and warm and light puffy clouds dotted the horizon. The view from the summit was fantastic. It felt like we were standing at the top of the world. I opened my backpack and spread my canopy out over a broken granite boulder field. My heart rate quickened with anticipation as I put my harness on, checking my quick links, carabiner, suspension lines and straps. In only a few minutes, I was ready.

My variometer would tell me whether I was rising or descending and provide me with digital readouts of altitude as I approached the landing zone. I strapped it onto my leg and turned it on. The audio indicator sprang to life with a loud beeping sound that indicated lift. I turned into the crisp morning breeze and concentrated all my energies on my launch.

Then I ran forward, tugging on my A lines until the canopy flew up over my head. I visually checked the canopy quickly to be certain that it was fully inflated and ready to fly.

I said "See you later" to my wife and Stu and stepped into space.

The wind rushed by me and I felt the suspension lines tugging me into the air. Perfect launch. I banked the glider and made a left turn immediately after launch to follow the ridge to the south, using any available lift to extend my glide to the primary landing zone.

I settled back into my harness and enjoyed the great view as I sailed over the Green Mountain National Forest below. The feeling of freedom, joy and exhilaration, being a part of that wonderful morning, was a lifelong dream come true.

Flying over the Green Mountains (15666 bytes)

 I checked out alternate landing zones as I flew down the ridge. The clearing closest to the peak that we thought might be a swamp turned out to have trails running through it. There was a house with a pond and a tennis court and several grassy meadows before I reached to road to the gap.

My vario told me I was descending steadily. The altimeter read 3,400 feet, then 3,300, 3,200, 3,000...I was on course to the primary landing zone with plenty of altitude.

I began to set up my final approach at about 1,600 feet above sea level, 300 feet above the meadow, banking right to turn south for the landing. I cleared the trees at the edge of the field by 100 feet and began to apply the brakes just above the ground. My feet touched the ground and I landed ever so softly.

"LZ to Abraham summit," I radioed to the top. "Piece of cake."

Ruth launched next following the ridge south and landing in a field just short of where I had landed. Stu had a hard time getting his canopy inflated and finally had to pack it up and walk down after the winds at the summit got too strong.

He was disappointed, but we all knew that safety came first. Mount Abraham would still be there to fly at a later date.

Ruth and I rode home with broad smiles on our faces, knowing we were the first paraglider pilots to launch off Mount Abraham. We knew thousands of other pilots would eventually enjoy the exhilaration of launching from Vermont's fifth highest peak in the years to come. We were merely the first of a whole new generation of pilots about to dawn over the Green Mountains.

Over the course of the summer we flew most of the highest peaks in Vermont, blazing the way in a budding new aviation sport that, like mountain biking, roller blading and alpine slides, may eventually bring thousands of tourists to Vermont's ski resorts in the summer months, and with these tourists, a thriving new summertime economic boost.

Paragliding is common at European ski resorts where people routinely ride to the mountain tops on tramways and chairlifts built for skiing in the wintertime. Aspen, Colorado and Jackson Hole, Wyoming are among the first U.S. ski resorts to open ski lifts to paragliding enthusiasts in the summer months. By the turn of the century, it is very likely that Vermont resorts will be attracting thousands of visitors from throughout New England and the northeast as it becomes the Switzerland of the eastern U.S. for this emerging sport.