The skies around Pemberton have been full this week with some of the world’s top pilots preparing for the Canadian National Paragliding Championships.
Pemberton has never before hosted a gliding competition of this calibre, said organizer Jim Orava, and the event is set to put the village on the map for enthusiasts of the sport worldwide.
And while Pemberton may be noticeably busier while acting as host of the event, which kicks off Sunday (Aug. 5) and runs to Aug. 12, Orava said the Canadian championships will leave a lasting impact on the region.
“It’s going to be a really good thing for this town and it’s really going to put us on the map,” said Orava. “I’ve flown every place in the world, 20 countries or more, but when I come back here I just go, ‘Wow, this place is so incredible.’
“We’ve never had (a competition) to this degree here and it’s quite commonly in the past been in Golden, because it’s been traditionally the main headquarters of big competition in Canada. But now that we’ve opened up this place with our new launch, we’re capable of hosting such an event.”
With Pemberton’s launch point upgraded, Orava said it’s as good as any you’d find at other notable flying destinations.
“Everybody’s super excited,” he said. “The sky’s been full and people have been lined up 10 deep to get off the hill here in Pemberton. There are already a lot of people in town preparing for this.”
As far as multi-day events specific to the Spud Valley go, these nationals will be one of the biggest the village has seen since the Pemberton Festival back in 2008. With 130 pilots from more than a dozen countries registered and many other people expected to be on hand for the event, Orava said it’s reasonable to expect an economic impact of close to $250,000 for the area.
“The amount of tourism it’s already promoted this week, by the looks of things, parking lots are full around here with Americans and people from all over Canada who are showing up,” he said. “For every one pilot that’s in the competition, there’s an average of five more that come with them, just with family, friends, kids and other recreational pilots who aren’t here to compete.
“These guys travel the world and have no problem spending money. The demographic is really good for the town.”
Orava said he also expects to see many of the pilots back in the village in the future once they’ve had a chance to fly here.
“These guys are going to come back, some year after year once they see the place,” he said. “Word will spread wildly that this is one of the most incredible places in the world to fly.”
Each competition day, the event’s task committee will plot out the course after accounting for weather, wind and other factors.
“It’s like a 3-D orienteering course,” explained Orava.
Pilots then race to the different checkpoints while attempting to get to the goal on ground as fast as possible. Points are awarded based on placing and totaled throughout the week to determine a national champion.
The competition is in a category just below the world championships, so there’s an elite group of pilots coming out for the event. Multiple-time French champion Denis Cortella will be one competitor to watch, as will Hungary’s Pal Takats.
“He makes birds look disgraceful the way this boys flies,” Orava said of Takats.
Canadian Will Gadd is also expected to be a factor, while Orava, Samson Danniels and Jayson Faulkner are among some of the locals in the field.
But while there will be a world-class field on hand, the event will also look to accommodate less experienced pilots. The top pilots have been asked to mentor novices throughout the competition, while some like Cortella, Takats and Gadd will lead seminars on competitive flying and fundamental techniques.
“As well as a fun competition, it’s a tremendous learning experience for everyone,” said Orava.
Visit www.paraglidenationals.com for event schedules and more information.