In the late ‘90s, Ryan Taylor was working construction at Allred’s Restaurant when he became intrigued by the afternoon traffic that would pass overhead: paragliders.
“Every day at 4:30 or 5 p.m., people would come floating by,” he said. “I thought it looked really cool.”
Soon, he did his first tandem flight with Telluride pilot
Scott MacLowry, and became hooked. Taylor traveled to
Draper, Utah, a famous paragliding instruction site and
proving grounds, where he cut his teeth and took
lessons. When he returned to Telluride, local pilots with the Telluride Air Force mentored him on how to
navigate Telluride’s air density, weather patterns and mountainous landscapes. He’s been flying the skies
above the San Juans ever since.
Today, Taylor has come full circle from student to teacher. He has been instructing since 2008, and for the first time this summer has permission from Telluride Ski & Golf to operate commercial flights from the ski resort.
Taylor’s company, Telluride Paragliding, offers tandem flights from Milk Run and Gold Hill, as well as intensive instruction. Taylor, a USHPA-certified advanced instructor, will give people a taste of flight with trips that soar above the box canyon and surrounding mountains, and even accompany them to Utah for intensive instruction on how to fly solo.
Taylor, who works as a ski patroller in the winter, said he has approached Telski over the years about getting permission to fly clients from the top of Gold Hill. This year, Telski owner Chuck Horning told him yes.
Telluride Paragliding has met all of Telski’s requirements on insurance and is now flying. The company flies in the morning and evening — when the winds are calmer — and starts flights at 7 a.m.
“It’s a good way to wake up,” Taylor said.
To get to Milk Run, Taylor and clients can hop on the gondola. And to fly from Gold Hill, he has a vehicle that is also insured to the ski area’s standards. He lands on the Pearl Property or Valley Floor.
Taylor, who has worked as an instructor for other companies in Utah and Idaho, said he was ready to build something of his own here in Telluride, and this allows him to share his passion with others.
“My goal is to have fun with people and keep it safe and increase the amount of paragliding that’s going on here,” he said, adding that he hopes to keep the local flying club, the Telluride Air Force, vibrant. “It’s such a great spot to paraglide, and I want to keep that going.”
In his time as an instructor, Taylor has taken people ages 5 to 85 tandem paragliding. It’s a sport for everyone that offers an incredible feeling of freedom, he said.
“People are just having so much fun with it,” he said. “It can be really relaxing, with mellow morning flights, or extreme thermaling into 16,000 feet with aerobatics.”
Taylor said he considers all tandem flights with clients as instructive — he likes to walk them through the gear, procedures and safety protocol. And if they decide after the first flight that they would like to learn how to fly solo, he will accompany them to Utah for seven to 10 days for an intensive lesson.
The sport is dependent on the weather, but most mornings are good for flying. Taylor says he thoroughly checks conditions before going out.
“Flying in big mountains require big respect for those mountains,” he said.
All told, he’s flown nearly 1,000 flights in places that range from Hawaii to Europe and Utah. But, he says, Telluride is among his favorite spots to fly.
“It’s a unique activity,” he said.
Taylor thanks students and the Telluride Air Force for the support.
Courtesy of the Telluride Daily Planet
By Katie Klingsporn Editor
Sunday, June 16, 2013