REVELSTOKE, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- All it takes is five or six running steps full-tilt through an alpine meadow to become airborne, soaring with the eagles high above the town of Revelstoke. It's quiet and serene, unlike any other method of flight -- no motor, no engine, no wings flapping in the wind -- just a parachute and the laws of physics lifting and pulling in perfect harmony across a sunny bluebird sky. At once peaceful and exhilarating, paragliding is sightseeing like you've never known.
Alan Polster, co-founder of Revelstoke Paragliding based at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, has been flying since 1995 after seeing a movie at the Banff Mountain Film Festival about a father-son duo who climbed a mountain in France and then flew off via paraglider into the sunset. "I wanted to try it," he explains from the British Columbia property. "Flying is the dream of many people and this is pretty much it."
Polster draws several parallels between paragliding and two of his other passions in sport: whitewater paddling and skiing. "Flying a paraglider is like the best powder day you've ever had," he says. "That fluid motion of moving through rapids or floating through powder is the same as drifting through air currents. It's just an incredible feeling."
He and two other pilots, Chris Delworth and Scott Watwood, started the company, which has provided the same breathtaking experience to tourists and bucket-list subscribers since the resort opened five years ago. While they do offer tandem flights in the winter when the ski lifts are running, August and September are by far their busiest months, due largely to thermal lift from the sun-baked earth below. That summer phenomenon makes it possible to stay aloft for hours at a time. Throw in the sparkling Columbia River winding its way between snow-capped mountains and glacier peaks and you've got yourself one heck of a scenic ride.
"When I'm flying, I'm not thinking about the cloth and the string that's above me. I'm just flying," Polster says. "Above the trees, above the mountains, it's 360 degrees of unrestricted visibility. You see things you can't possibly see any other way."
Of course, paragliding is just one of the many adventures and activities attracting people to the town of 8,000 nestled between the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains of southeastern British Columbia. No visit is complete without a trip up through Mount Revelstoke National Park. Meadows-in-the-Sky Parkway winds its way to the summit, offering incredible views of the area with historical points of interest en route, like the famed ski jump site of local legend Nels Nelson.
For those with an appetite for even bigger hikes and peaks, Rogers Pass and Glacier National Park lie less than an hour east of town along the Trans-Canada Highway toward Golden. Not far from where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven into place -- forever connecting the east with the west and uniting the country in commerce and travel -- visitors can spend hours or days getting lost and found in the abounding natural beauty.
However you choose to explore -- whether wandering the region by foot or gliding above it all in silent wonder -- one thing's for certain: You won't want to miss a moment spent in and around Revelstoke.
Story by Katie Marti/Vacay.ca writer