There is a big misconception about what paragliding is. A lot of people stereotype paragliding as an "extreme " sport for " hot shots ", " special breed " elite adventure athletes. Personally, I would call paragliding an " adventure sport " rather than an " extreme " one. Unlike skydiving or BASE jumping there is no free-falling or jumping off of cliffs.
The best way to go "soaring with the eagles" is to get a tandem paragliding flight. Tandem paragliding is safe, low cost, and a great introduction to the sport of paragliding.
Local outdoor enthusiasts know Tiger Mountain as an all seasons and all skill levels mecca for hiking and mountain biking. But few know that it's also a major metropolitan paragliding flight park ( the famous Chirico Trail is actually named after Marc Chirico who brought paragliding to Tiger Mountain in 1990 ).
Your adventure begins with a shuttle ride ($17 cash paid to the driver ) that will take you up Tiger Mountain to the launch zone. You may otherwise choose to hike up to launch via the Chirico Trail (1.5 mile / 1,700' / 45 min to an hour climb ) with the chute on your back ( if you want to save some cash ).
Once at the launch zone, your instructor will go over some of the basics. The learning curve in tandem paragliding is... Well, not a whole lot.
As a matter of fact, you are not expected to know or do anything. The only thing that is expected from you is the ability to run at full speed off of the edge of the mountain. If this doesn't seem to daunting an idea, the rest is easy. After signing a waiver and getting geared up... you are ready to soar !
The flights are smooth and comfortable, sat in a seat in front of the instructor enjoying the views. The flight time varies. Paragliding is weather dependent, and if the conditions are just right you might fly for as long as an hour ( but usually, 20-30 minutes will be just enough for you ).
Now all you have to do is choose a company to take you up. A good tandem pilot will be confident, experienced but not a maverick dare devil.
I went with Ross Jacobson from Northwest SkySports.
USHGA (United States HangGliding Association ) certified with more than 17 years of experience, he flies all around Washington: Tiger Mountain, Blanchard Mountain near Bellingham, Whidbey Island, Chelan...
Strong gusty winds didn't allow us to spend a lot of time flying that day, but even that was enough for me to start thinking about pursuing my childhood dream - becoming a pilot ( at least a paragliding pilot).