As a lot of you know, I have traveled to Pemberton, BC, for the last dozen years, to fly, fish, hike, camp, mountain bike, ski, etc. This is the best place in North America for alpine flying. The travel time is only seven hours from Honolulu. Fly to Seattle or Vancouver, BC, and drive two hours on the Sea to Sky highway, past Whistler, to Pemberton.
Pemberton valley is situated between 10,000 foot glaciers and high alpine mountains, but the lush valley floor is only 600 feet msl. It has three rivers, tons of beautiful lakes, salmon runs, and forest. The town of Pemberton is a great little community full of organic farms, wineries, bed and breakfasts, great restaurants, and super nice people. They speak English too! Camping in the forest is epic, next to a stream, lake, or river.
This year they are hosting the Canadian National Paragliding Championships and the Canadian National Hang Gliding Championships back to back.
If you've ever wanted to fly in smooth big thermals over high alpine glaciers and land in a big easy valley, this is your chance. Over the years I've hosted many Hawaii pilots that have either learned there or have had epic flights there. The list includes Sharky, Peruvian Phil, Big Isle Scotty Gee, Motorhead, Ken Berry, and a few others. Last year, US pilot Honza Rejmanek flew from Whistler past Pemberton to the town of Lillooet, for a flight of over 100 miles.
The new launch is located 4,000 feet over the valley, and can accommodate over 20 pilots at a time. It's high enough to launch over the valley inversion, and almost guarantees you get high enough to soar to 13,500 feet. Big fat easy thermals are the norm. If, after an hour or two of thermal flying, you've had enough, you simply fly out to the big valley of Pemberton and land in huge fields. With one road, and plenty of friendly locals, you're apt to get the first ride home. The entire community supports paragliding there. I've been invited to land at parties and at farms where I've been handed a beer or two upon landing.
This year I've been invited to be the Launch and Safety Director for the Canadian Nationals, due to all my previous experience flying, teaching, and retrieving up there.
The list of pilots is growing, with big names like Will Gadd, Jim Orava, Josh Cohn, Brian Webb, Sam Crocker, Matt Cone, Brett Zanglein, Dave Wheeler, and our own Fireman Dave.
They are planning to run it like the Rat Race, with different classes and lots of parties.
Even if you just fly off, get super high, cross the valley and soar, you will think you're in the European Alps.
I hope to see many of my brothers and sisters from Hawaii make it up to Pemberton on August 5th.
Pete 'Reaper' Michelmore
USHPA Instructor of the Year