Combining the thrill of snowboarding with the adrenalin rush of para-gliding, woopy jumping is becoming an increasingly common sight on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. Heading down an icy incline at around 50kph on a board is thrilling; with a delta-shaped, inflatable wing strapped to your back, the adrenalin is amplified. What would have been fleeting jumps are extended into periods of soaring weightlessness. Big air gets really big; up to 30 seconds of flight time if you’re really good.
“It feels like flying,” says Emma Shore, a snowboarder from Canada who tried woopy jumping at Schwarzsee in Switzerland. “The wing is really light and when you’re gliding, it’s like you’re weightless.”
With the wing on their backs and the piste glistening beneath them, woopy jumpers enjoy the kind of serious airtime that traditional snow junkies only dream of. The sport is in its infancy, with only handful of resorts offering lessons and kit hire in the Swiss Alps, the sport’s birthplace. But with its fast take-up and unique rush, it won’t be long before its popularity, like its participants, soars.
“I’ve done plenty of boarding and I’ve grabbed a lot of air,” says Shore, “but hitting a jump with the wing attached is something else; it’s a real buzz.”
The right direction
“To steer, there are two options,” says Laurent de Kalbermaten, inventor of the woopy wing. “One’s like hang-gliding where you shift your centre of gravity; the other is creating a ‘differential’ pitch, which means pulling each steering bar to warp the wing.”
And another thing
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