The Intermountain Wide-Open

The Intermountain Wide-Open

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So it has been almost a week and I finally feel like I am fully recovered from what was the 2015 Intermountain Wwide-Open, a new twist on paragliding contests. 

I had organized the event as an excuse to take a week off work and go paragliding with my friends.  The idea was that everybody in the intermountain west would put up, or shut up to see where the best flying was, and who was flying the best.

The entry fee was $150, and almost all the money went back to the pilots as prize money. Scoring was done by XContest.  Retrieve was not included in the organization, but as usual everyone made it home in time for the next day. Thanks a lot to those who did drive!! I had imagined something like 25 people would sign up and we would hopefully get 3 or 4 days of reasonable flying somewhere between Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.

It didn’t really line up like that at all. 10 Dudes who really wanted to fly cross country signed up, and we got six of the most outrageous days of flying in my life.  I can never before remember Sun valley Idaho delivering 5 days in a row!!!  The days were not unusually strong (it is the middle of summer in the heart of the Rocky Mountains) but, the edges were unbelievably smooth.  For sure your glider would get horked around in the air a bit, that’s to be expected when the averager is over 1000 fpm, but the cores were big, friendly, and welcoming.  We used to joke that Sun Valley could serve up the roughest 200 fpm thermal on earth, but that air was not around last week.


Photo: Nick Greece

To put some numbers to the week, we moved the USA from 12th to 9th in the nations category on XContest.

  • The winner  of the ‘scary comp ship’ class, Mitch Riley, who flew super strong all week, out in front, or on his own, reaming his Enzo 2 at full speed through the Idaho skies flew 964 km in 4 flights (he was also doing tandems in the am for work).
  • Second place Nick Greece flew 1082 km in 5 flights (pilots were only scored for their 4 best flights).  During that time period he flew 33 hours and only slept for 20 hours.  I was the eventual winner of the ‘scared middle middle age white guys’ class (EN C and lower).
  • I flew 6 out of 9 days, getting 1006 km, and over 35 hours, and one speeding ticket.
  • Andy Macrae was the winner of the best ball category, sending it 313 km across Montana for a new state record, Nice work Andy!!
  • Bill Belcourt won the raffle, getting his entry fee back.
Photo: Nick Greece

Photo: Nick Greece

I spent the week flying my Nova Triton 2, and I can happily say it is the best, most balanced  paraglider I have ever flown.  On my long day I was in the air for 9.5 hours.  During the heat of the day the glider was rock solid, and super confidence inspiring, allowing me to dive into some of the biggest mountain ranges in the west (several times even directly into the lee, because that was where the climbs were).

Then, at the end of the day the glider was still so fun to fly I soared on a shoulder of the Pioneers mountains for an hour stuck in the valley breeze, but not at all interested in landing.   When the last thermal of the day came thru after 8:00 in the evening the impeccable handling and feeling of the Triton 2 enabled me to climb 4000’ one more time and glide into the sunset.

Thanks a lot Nova!! Anybody looking for a serious XC machine should try one of their gliders.  It is interesting to note when looking at the scores that Nick Greece had 2 higher scores on his LM5 flights than he did on his Enzo.

I would call the 2015 Intermountain Wide-Open a smashing success.  I am already excited for next year.  After feedback from the participants I think I will extend the meet to 2 weeks (so we get 3 weekends) and take your best 5 scores.  If you have any interest in coming to fly the big intermountain air stay posted for next years dates.  There should be a group of pilots rallying around wherever the conditions look best, trying to find a good time!


Photo: Nick Greece

Nick and Mitch took some super sweet pictures of the event. Thanks for letting me use them. More can  can be seen here:

Nick Greece:

Mitch Riley: