Why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Well, because there’s no such thing as a perfectly good airplane. (At least that’s the refrain you’re likely to hear if you spend any time with a group of experienced skydivers.) So, knowing that the airplane is just the noisy conveyance that transports you to more interesting destinations and activities, why do so many opt to use it as a vehicle for skydiving?
It’s something that’s often at the top of one’s bucket list. Maybe it’s the whole adrenaline rush of falling out of an airplane two miles above the surface of the earth with only a silent scream and the hope that a parachute will save you. Maybe it’s to overcome a fear: a fear of heights, a fear of falling, a fear of not being seen as brave or fearless enough. Or, maybe it’s to achieve a sense of independence—after all, if you can do skydiving, you can pretty much do anything. Suffice it to say, there are a host of reasons why people choose this rather extreme pursuit. You’ll just have to experience it to find yours.
Skydiving in Colorado
The skydiving is great in Colorado, thanks to our awesome year-round climate, penchant for outdoor sports, and breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) regulates the sport, and sets the safety standards for all instructors and equipment. The Centennial State has four skydiving operations at three different airports that adhere to USPA regulations: one near Longmont (the largest), one near Colorado Springs, and two at Canon City. They’ll all require you to be at least 18 years old (with proof of ID), and at or under the 215-250lb. max weight. The jump itself will cost about $200, but you’ll obviously want video proof footage of your fall to earth as well—that’s an additional $150 or so. Regardless of which operation you go with, plan to call ahead for a reservation (there’s no sense in waiting around and allowing yourself to contemplate the decision you’ve made), dress for the weather (layers are always best), and opt for sneakers or another shoe with laces. Call us crazy, but this is NOT the time to break out the flip flops.
What will your experience be like?
Your first skydive will be a fun, exhilarating experience that you’ll likely remember for the rest of your life. You’ll of course be nervous and anxious, but we promise that the experienced, confident folks at the drop zone will take good care of you.
Upon arrival at the venue, you’ll fill out the necessary paperwork and legal waivers (you are jumping out of a plane, after all), and then watch a short instructional video (pay attention!). Then, you’ll meet your instructor—yes, the person who accompanies you on your jump is a licensed instructor through the USPA. How’s that for some added reassurance?
Your instructor will provide additional instruction, fit you into a parachute harness, and give you a pair of goggles to wear. This is a great time to ask any questions you may have, so don’t be shy! Your instructor will be eager to calm your nerves, and ensure that you have the best experience ever.
Finally, it’ll be time to head to the airplane, get loaded up, and head out (or “up,” in this case). The ride to altitude can oftentimes be as unworldly as the skydive itself, so be sure to take a moment to observe the skydivers around you. This is a very different type of “locker room” experience, and you’re likely to be riding with very unique personalities.
Getting out the door
The time has arrived! Your instructor will proceed to cinch you tightly into your harness, and adjust your goggles. As the door opens, the cabin of the airplane will fill with a surge of fresh, cool air and the roar of the wind outside. Your heart will be pounding as your instructor positions you both in the door. A thousand thoughts will race through your head, but before you can utter even a single word, you’ll step out into the blue. With the rush of engulfing you, you might be able to look up and see the airplane silently floating up and away from you; there’s no reference point to signal to your brain that you’re falling, so the plane will appear to be floating away, almost like a birthday balloon. You’re skydiving!
The anxiety you felt will give to euphoria as you float in a space between the sky and earth below. If you’re the type of person who likes to feel the wind on your hand through an open car window, you’ll love how your whole body moves within the airflow, no longer limited by something as simple as a vehicle. For a brief moment, you’ll be free; the air will feel fresh and pure, and you will see the earth from a vantage point unlike anything you’ve ever imagined.
All too soon, your instructor will deploy your parachute, and you’ll feel a gentle tug that will stand you up in mid-air. But, the ride isn’t over just yet; suspended in your harness, you’ll soar high above the airfield as you make wide, sweeping turns. This is the quieter part of your skydive, so your instructor will likely take the time to explain how you’ll join the other parachutists above and below you for a smooth landing in the field below.
Gone are the days of bone-shattering landings. Modern parachutes are flown through a landing similar to that for an airplane. Your instructor will guide you into a gentle approach onto a grassy field; at the last minute, he or she will slow the parachute to a near standstill, and catch you before your feet touch the ground. You officially did it!
The skydive is over in mere minutes, but the experience itself lasts a lifetime. You’ll never forget the rush of air on your face, how it felt to float in space, or what the view was like from so far up. Whether you go on to become a regular skydiver, or are just-fine-thank-you-very-much with one jump, what you saw and felt during that initial experience will remain a milestone in your life.
There’s a popular saying among skydivers that best captures the thoughts of anyone who has jumped:
“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”