He’s only been flying for a couple of years, but local tile setter Todd Zimmerman appears right at home cutting through the morning mist as he scouts the LZ at Community Park. The grass on the soccer field is covered with morning dew, allowing him to slide in for a smooth landing. PHOTO BY DAVID MADISONMichael Firth (blue wing below) and Todd ZimmermanTodd ZimmermanTodd ZimmermanMichael Firth (blue wing) and Todd Zimmerman pack up near the LZ at Community Park.

Winging it

When the wind is right, Big Sky Mountain Flyers dot skies

In the winter, they ski launch off of Yellow Mountain and in the warmer months, members of Big Sky Mountain Flyers take off from an open spot atop Tick Ridge. On May 25, just before 9 a.m., Michael Firth and Todd Zimmerman made graceful banking turns as they piloted paragliders off the ridge and down to Community Park. 

     This gravity-defying adrenaline rush is only possible if there are uphill winds blowing into the faces of pilots on top who are ready to launch at the right moment. 

     “You watch the flags and the smoke coming out of people’s chimneys,” explained Zimmerman, who along with Firth has made the roughly hour-long hike to the top only to find dangerous cross winds or “sinky air” coming over the ridge in ways capable of slamming flyers to the ground. That’s when flyers are forced to hike back down. 

    But on good days, “You wait for the wind. You can feel it,” said Firth, who works as a foreman for Haas Builders. 

    “It’s flying man. It’s awesome,” continued Firth. “We took little wings up there today. Our intention was to fly down fast and make little turns and have fun. Or we can go up in the evenings with big wings and we can stay up as long as we want. I’ll be a thousand feet in the air, circling around Town Center. I’ve landed at the Beehive Brewery a bunch. You know, pack up and have a beer.”

     Still high from the morning’s flight, Zimmerman added, “It’s the best feeling there is.”  —DM


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