Birdman Academy takes its name from the pseudonym of its founder, Kevin Koonce. The Birdman estimates that he has trained thousands of hang-gliding lessons, and during that time he’s taught nearly 8,000 first-timers. Currently, he nests at Point of the Mountain, a spot known for what the Academy calls, "legendary conditions." This means consistently smooth winds, which are ideal for training new hang-gliders, paragliders, and baby pterodactyls recently thawed from blocks of prehistoric ice.
Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.
When the sun breaks through the clouds over Utah, it's an extra-exciting sight for the team at Nice Sky Adventures. That giant star blazing in the sky heats up the land below, creating thermal pockets perfect for powering adrenaline-boosting outings. Those excursions take the form of paragliding and hang-gliding flights, during which pilots and passengers ride those thermals to unparalleled views of mountainsides covered in verdant trees, snowy terrain, and one very lost pizza delivery guy.
Nice Sky Adventures starts clients off with tandem flights that pair novices with experienced pilots. From there, newly crowned flyers can relive their trip via photos and video, then continue with lessons to become solo pilots themselves.
Dan McManus discovered early on that his path through life wasn’t going to be an earthbound one. It was 1977, Dan was in his teens, and he had just taken his first hang-gliding flight. Since then, he has dedicated his life to the sport, soaring from cliffsides in the US, New Zealand, Central America, Costa Rica, the European Alps, and the Pyrenees of Spain. At Point of the Mountain Flight Park–Southside, Dan and Hildegard leads passengers on tandem flights over the beauteous Utah landscape. Passengers enjoy a blend of relaxing views and exhilarating rides on each trip, along with instruction on how to steer the giant wing and use the CB radio to signal airborne truckers.
Claiming to be the nation's largest paragliding and speed-flying facility, Cloud 9 Paragliding School touts its complete repair loft and lessons held seven days of the week year-round. The facility also stocks a variety of flying gadgets and equipment and imports a variety of international brands of paragliding equipment, which it then distributes to more than 40 flying schools across the country. But above all, the facility sees itself as a big toy store, providing big kids with playthings such as kite tricycles, pogo sticks, and mountain unicycles.
Two-Can Fly Paragliding's owner and founder, Ken Hudonjorgensen, has been helping students into the air since 1990. He has flown more than 13,000 times—for more than 4,000 hours in the air—since he began paragliding in 1989. The sport has blossomed since then, and Ken is dedicated to keeping up with trends and helping others safely find their wings so they can finally realize that clouds don't taste like cream cheese.
In addition to introductory lessons, Ken helps fliers gain any level of certification; he boasts a Safe Pilot award and the highest single-seater rating of P5. For basic P2 certification, Two-Can Fly Paragliding mandates at least 100 flights to make sure students have the skills down. In addition to one-on-one lessons, Ken leads clinics on more advanced topics, such as mountain flying and tandem paragliding.