Frisco flyer aims to start adaptive paragliding program in Summit and Eagle counties |

Frisco flyer aims to start adaptive paragliding program in Summit and Eagle counties

A view of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Gore Range while paragliding from Williams Peak at the north end of Summit County.
Photo from Charlie Martin

A local paraglider wants to bring an adaptive paragliding program to Summit County next summer.

Charlie Martin of Frisco, a member of the Rocky Mountain Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, is looking to raise $10,000 to start the program.

Martin said he wants to bring a program to the state similar to the Utah-based Project Airtime, a nonprofit that pairs a trained pilot with a guest in an adaptive chair in a tandem format. Project Airtime has provided a tandem paragliding experience to people with special needs, brain and spinal cord injuries, and illness as well as the elderly and veterans.

Chris Santacroce, the founder of Project Airtime and a former Red Bull athlete, recovered from his own life-altering spinal cord injury that left him in a wheelchair for some time. Santacroce’s recovery, paired with his love of flying, inspired him to launch the nonprofit.

“He’s one of my big mentors in the sport,” Martin said. “He taught me to fly tandems, and that rubbed off on me.”

Martin said he also is motivated to emulate Santacroce’s success in Utah because Martin’s mother was involved in adaptive sports when he was a kid. Martin also has worked with Breckenridge resident Teague Holmes, an avid flier himself, to develop a plan on how to successfully fly with someone with lower-leg injuries. Holmes, who is an accomplished backcountry skier, suffered multiple serious injuries in a paragliding accident two years ago in California.

Martin is still in the formative process of launching the program, which he said might be under the Project Airtime umbrella or unrelated. Martin said the chair the program would use would be custom-designed for adaptive paragliding, with one wheel on the front and two at the rear, like a tricycle. Martin said the weight limit for an adaptive passenger would be 200 pounds as the wheelchair weighs 40 pounds.

“Whether they have a brain injury or spine injury or don’t have use of their legs, it can be whatever,” Martin said. “As long as they fit in the chair and they want to fly and are within weight range … they are golden.”

How to help

Martin said he’d like to be able to launch his program from two locations, one in Summit County and one in Eagle County, and he is currently undertaking the insurance and forest permitting processes.

In Summit, Martin would launch flights from one of his most visited sites: Williams Peak at the north end of the county. Martin said the other local spot would be Belly Ache Ridge in Edwards, a location where he and other members of the Rocky Mountain Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association launch many tandem flights.

Dustin O’Hara of Evergreen, a member of the association who Martin helped to train in tandem flying earlier this year, said the peaceful, almost tranquil experience people can get tandem paragliding has a soothing and calming effect.

“I’m an instructor down here on the Front Range for paragliding, and we tell students, ‘Some of you may have more of a raised heart rate while we’re on the ground than when you’re flying.’ It’s a very relaxing feeling, believe it or not. As human beings, even though we don’t grow feathers, we can acclimate to it, and it just feels natural.”

Williams Peak may be the best local spot to cultivate the sensibility Martin and O’Hara speak of. The open, grassy expanse at right around 11,000 feet provides ideal winds for tranquil flight as well as mesmerizing views to the east of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Gore Range.

Martin said adaptive participants would need to be transported to the take-off location in a high-clearance vehicle. After takeoff, participants would descend more than 2,000 feet to a designated landing zone on the north end of Green Mountain Reservoir.

“It’s a gradual glide down over smooth terrain — nothing jagged,” Martin said. “There are a lot of trees, and it is a hunting area, so you might see an elk, deer or a moose or two.”

A view of paragliding from Williams Peak at the north end of Summit County.
Photo from Charlie Martin

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