Combining the thrill of snowboarding with the rush of paragliding, woopy jumping is becoming an increasingly common sight on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. Heading down an icy incline at around 30 mph on a board is fun; with a delta-shaped, inflatable wing strapped to your back, it’s an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride. What would have been fleeting jumps are extended into periods of soaring weightlessness. Big air gets really big— up to 30 seconds of hang time if you’re good.
“It feels like flying,” says Emma Shore, a snowboarder from Canada who tried woopy jumping at Lac-Noir 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 ski runs 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 just a handful of resorts offering lessons and gear rental in the Swiss Alps, the sport’s birthplace. But with its 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 center of gravity; the other is creating a ‘differential’ pitch, which means pulling each steering bar to warp the wing.”
And another thing
Bungee-jump off the Locarno Dam in Ticino, southern Switzerland, and re-create the opening scene of the James Bond film Goldeneye.
Take a helicopter tour over the Alps and then leap out at 15,000 feet for a breathtaking tandem-skydive experience.
Rappel down crevasses deep into a glacier, then climb your way out again under the guidance of the most experienced ice-climbing guides in Switzerland.