Point of the Mountain hang gliding brings the world to Draper
If you’ve looked up in the skies above the Point of the Mountain, you’ve probably seen them – hang gliders and paragliders—sometimes by the dozens. The Point of the MountainFlightParkgives riders the opportunity to experience one of the best hang gliding areas in the world.
Hang gliding instructor Ace Whitmore has always been called to the air. After receiving his airplane pilot’s license at 18, Whitmore said he feels more at home in the air. And the north and south side of the Point of the Mountain is one of the places he likes to be the most.
“The air flow system in the Great Salt LakeBasinis unlike anything else in the world,” he said. “The air is smooth and consistent. The mountains funnel the air right over the top of the Point of the Mountain. There is no other place where it’s better to learn the sport than here in Utah.”
Hang gliding started at the Point of the Mountain in the 1950s, but Whitmore said that there is evidence of gliders being used as early as the 1920s. In the 1990s, paragliders made an appearance and have been growing in popularity every since, Whitmore said.
The south side of the mountain is often used for teaching new pilots how to fly the hang gliders and paragliders. Whitmore said the air is the best on the south side in the morning, while the north side is better in the afternoon and evening. The north side of the mountain is for more advanced pilots, he said.
While many in the United States see hang gliding and paragliding as extreme sports, Whitmore said with the proper training, it’s as safe as driving a car.
Hang gliding and paragliding are growing in popularity in the U. S., but Whitmore said its popularity is nothing like in Europe and Asia, where it’s considered more mainstream. In Europe and Asia, Whitmore said you will find hang glider pilots like you would find skiers in Utah.
“The best hang glider and paraglider pilots in the world flock to the Point of the Mountain,” Whitmore said. “On a good day, with nice weather, you can see more than 80 in the skies.”
For Whitmore, being able to sail through the air like the birds is freeing and gives him a sense of peace. He said it’s not unusual for pilots to fly alongside hawks, eagles and owls also enjoying the wind currents.
“I’ve never experienced that kind of freedom in any other place in my life,” he said. “It’s about peace and serenity for me. It’s the chance to connect with nature because you are working with nature to make this experience happen. There is nothing like it.”
The Point of the MountainFlightParkis on property owned by Geneva Rock. The mining operation at the point is easily visible. Whitmore said the flying community is nervous about future plans to mine more of the mountain. Currently, Geneva Rock allows pilots and spectators access to the flight park through its property. [See story on page 1.]
While no plans are in the works to discontinue this partnership, Whitmore said, “It’s always on the minds of the people that frequent the park.
“It’s a gut-wrenching feeling to think of them bulldozing the mountain and losing this one-of-a- kind place because once it’s gone, it can’t be put back,” he said. “We are dependent on Genevato grant us access to both sides of the mountain. I hope when it comes to that point, both sides can work together.”
In September, the Point of the Mountain will be the site of an international hang gliding and paragliding spot landing competition. Whitmore said this event challenges pilots to land in a designated spot. He said the event will be very family-friendly and will provide good spectator access to watch the pilots land.