What is speed riding?
Skis on, equipped with a harness and a type of mini-paragliding wing, speed riding is a perfect mix between skiing and paragliding. The objective of this activity is to alternate between the sensations of skiing and flying.
Preparation is key!
Dressed to impress in my ski outfit, with skis on (no poles) and armed with my lift pass, I joined my speed riding instructor, Jérôme, at the Starski meeting point. There are two other people who will be participating in this speed riding session. This is my first time however not for them, they in fact have already done it once this week, loved it that much that they came back for a second time just before leaving the resort.
Jérôme equips us with a speed wing and an extremely useful microphone/earpiece set that we attach to our helmet. We head towards a red run, ideal for speed riding due to its windy location and slope angle. It is well maintained and bashed regularly, making it perfect for beginners! Today the weather is not the best and the visibility is poor, however that doesn’t stop us.
We find ourselves at the top of the piste, everyone spreads their wings out behind them. Jérôme explains how to position myself well in relation to the wing behind me. I take both brakes in my hands and ski down the slope.
The first descent
I have only one mission: In theory, nothing could be simpler! However, knowing that I have to manage the speed wing, which is going to rise above my head very soon, puts additional pressure on me and makes me feel a little worried!
I then start moving, all I am thinking is ‘where is my wing?’, and ‘has it lifted correctly?’. There are several things going through my mind all at the same time – Jérôme’s explanations, the position of my wing, what my skis are doing, keeping my hands on the brakes, my skiing position… In the end I fall. Fortunately, the spring snow is soft!
I get up, Jérôme puts the wing back in place and I’m ready to go again. This time I focus just on the advice he gives me through the earpiece. It’s great because even though he’s not next to me, he gives me real-time instructions that I can follow straight away, and it really helps. Suddenly we’re at the bottom of the slope, we fold our wing – it’s small enough to pop it in a backpack, and head back up the lift to do it all again.
Second, third and lots more
After a few more goes, I got used to the speed wing and I even tried a few turns. The sensation is different, I feel a force pulling me in the opposite way I am moving, but it is incredible. Still surprised by the feeling, I try to go in opposite directions, left and right, I let myself go and begin to link my turns normally. Yes! I’m starting to feel more comfortable.
This time, instead of winding slowly down the slope, the plan is to go straight and to pick up more speed. I set off again, still following Jérôme’s advice in my ear, then in the middle of the piste I gained enough momentum that I felt my skis lift off the ground for a few seconds… I’m a little surprised, Jérôme didn’t warn me that it was going to happen! He acts as if nothing has happened and continues to advise me. Thanks to him, I stay calm and everything goes smoothly.
Finally, I’ve got the taste for it and I begin to feel the subtle movements in my wing. Unfortunately the clock is ticking and it’s almost the end of the lesson. We’re at the bottom of the slope and we’re all hurrying to put away our wings… In the hope of making one last additional descent!
Have a look at what it looks like:
Now it’s your turn…
A good level of skiing is mandatory, for example, you must be comfortable on red runs. For more information, contact our Starski team in the Grand-Bornand.