Vail man OK after paragliding crash
COPPER MOUNTAIN – A 60-year-old Vail man said he will be fine after a paragliding accident at Copper Mountain Resort Wednesday afternoon.
Ron Jones, an expert paragliding pilot, took off from Storm King Mountain at Copper Mountain and was following a ski run when his glider “got a little low in the trees,” said Greg Kelley, a senior instructor and pilot with Summit Paragliding.
“To avoid a lift, he made a sharp turn and came into the ground a little hard,” Kelley said. “It wasn’t a freak of nature or a bizarre gust of wind. It was pilot error; he had to land. But that sharp turn caused him to pendulum. When you pendulum, you can hit hard.”
Kelley believes Jones’ glider was near the top of the trees and Jones, an advanced pilot, was suspended in his canvas seat 20 to 30 feet below that.
Copper Mountain Fire District, Summit County Ambulance, resort bike patrollers and Summit County Rescue Group personnel responded to the call. Ambulance personnel took Jones to Vail Valley Medical Center, where he spent the afternoon in the emergency room. Jones suffered a hip injury and is expected to fully recover.
Summit Paragliding offers instruction and tandem rides in the morning when the winds are calm and pilots can glide 2,500 feet to the landing zone below in the A parking lot near the entrance to Copper Mountain. Advanced pilots sometimes opt to take afternoon flights when higher winds offer a more challenging experience.
“Paragliding is like any other sport; you can make it as dangerous as you want to,” Kelley said. “Pilots opt to fly when the conditions are appropriate for their skill level.”
In mild conditions, rides typically last about 15 minutes, although the record for the longest ride from Storm King Mountain was set by Rich Donovan of Breckenridge, a competitive paraglider who took three hours to sail from Copper Mountain to Jefferson County, Kelley said.
Dan Burnett, a Summit Rescue Group mission coordinator, said he believes paragliding can be risky in Colorado’s sometimes unpredictable winds.
“I don’t think it would be very safe with the updrafts and downdrafts we get in these mountains,” he said. “It’s risky, no doubt about it. But I guess it’s not so much the flying, it’s the landing that can be dangerous.”
Summit Paragliding began operations at Copper Mountain almost two months ago. Kelley has been flying for 14 years and instructing and taking passengers on tandem rides for the past decade.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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