Skydiving is the closest thing to flying that a human can do. It’s one of the most exhilarating—and terrifying—things you can do in an afternoon, so It’s little wonder that it’s an item on so many people’s bucket lists. If you’re going to do skydiving, you have to do it right, in a beautiful place with clear views. That’s why I decided to try skydiving in Tahoe.
We were in Tahoe for three days, and it was raining for two. Awesome. Fortunately, the last day was the clearest day ever, so I decided to do something that I’ve always dreamed of: skydiving. In my last blog entry, I mentioned that skydiving was something I thought I’d do once, but I’ve realized that I loved it enough to do it over and over again. There’s something unexplainable about the experience; it’s not a one-time thing. I guess you could say I’m hooked.
I think I do pretty crazy things, but I often get nervous when I’m doing them. Skydiving was not like that. This time, I was too excited and eager to be nervous! It was just the most beautiful day, and probably the best kind of weather for to go for a jump.
Alex, the owner of Sky Dive Lake Tahoe, picked me up from Ridge Resort, which was where I stayed. I had called Alex the day before and mentioned that it was difficult to get to the skydiving place without a car, since it was low season. There was literally no public transportation available. He was kind enough to offer to pick me up. Considering that the drive is a good 30 to 40 minutes, that was incredibly generous. He said, usually tourists in this area had a car ( apparently, not me) and soon, he is working on how to go about shuttling people incase more people like me come around.
I was too excited! When I woke up in the Ridge, it was cold and foggy. I had a sinking feeling of disappointment when I realized it might be too foggy to jump. But by 8:00, the fog had cleared, although it was still cold. Alex picked me up in the clubhouse with his adorable dog, Cobalt.
We had a long conversation on our drive down. He told me how the views and weather in the Valley are so much better than on the Ridge, and as we drove, I could see he was right. The Ridge has snow-capped mountains as its view, but it felt so far away. From the Valley, the view seems massively bigger, closer, and so majestic.
I wore thick clothes and even brought down a jacket, only to realize that the weather down in the Valley is very different from that in the Ridge. It was warm, sunny, and bright. I could see why so many people want to live there. It’s only a half hour drive to Lake Tahoe, so they can ski or visit the area whenever they want without living in the cold, harsh weather. Reno is 45 minutes away, too.
The Valley is full of open space, with big plots of land and great houses. It’s mostly filled with locals, and not a lot of tourists go there. Score! As I’ve said, I love going places where not many tourists go.
Most people say there is nothing to do down there, but as we drove past the towns, I fell in love with the area. I love the sweet houses and the farm lands. We passes through a town called Genoa, which Alex said is one of the oldest towns there. It felt so quaint and antique! I was definitely digging it. Alex told me about some awesome falls and all the hiking trails from the valley. I made a mental note: come back for this someday.
A few minutes more, and Alex pulled into the parking lot for Sky Dive Lake Tahoe. We had arrived. I was welcomed by Dave and the others, and soon I was sitting at a table to fill out some paper work. While I was at it, I watched a video. The paperwork and video said the same thing:
- There are risks involved in skydiving.
- You quit claim once you sign the waiver and you cannot sue any of them should something go wrong.
- It explains what will happen from beginning to end, like how they will strap you in the harness, etc. and that they need to tighten everything to secure that you are safe.
- They explain how you can back out AT ANY TIME you wish – just tell your instructor. You also get a refund if you do so.
Yes, it might sound scary to some, but they were just being realistic. They present you with the possible risks, and if you are still willing to take part and experience the thrill, then it’s YOUR CHOICE. No way are they going to push you out of a plane against your will.
Of course, I also did my homework. I asked Alex how long he’s been skydiving. His first jump was 14 years ago, and he has been doing tandem for the last ten. He already has more than 7,000 jumps. After I heard that, I felt like I was safe and I would make it down alive. I also asked how many parachutes he was going to take, and he’d take two. Then I have two “lives,” in case something goes wrong. I felt even safer.
Sky Dive Lake Tahoe
Sky Dive Lake Tahoe has been around for two years, and they have been steadily growing as a company ever since they opened their doors. They operate year-round, weather permitting, although their low season is December to January, when the weather is not favorable. The day I went was Monday of a low season, so I was the only jumper, even though the weather was perfect. Jumps start at 8:00 am, but on days with big groups, they do their best to start around 7:00 am. Because Americans are always have time constraints, they do their best to keep wait times as short as possible. They usually work through reservations, but even if you call the day you want to jump, they will try to fit you in. Some days, they have as many as fifty jumpers! They take students up two at a time, so that’s 25 trips. Alex and his team are accommodating, but they have two main jumper restrictions for the sake of safety: you have to be over 18 and under 220 pounds.
The venue was pretty cool. They had benches for you to sit on while you watch the video, and they even have snacks, like chocolate, chips, and drinks. The snacks are a $1 donation—you don’t have to pay, but come on. It’s just a dollar. Pay up! They also offer water, which is free. In case you have to wait, there is a game room with foosball and game boards. Like I said, though, they do their best to make sure you don’t have to wait. Also, there is a big space in the back to gear up. And just in case you were wondering, the toilets are clean. That’s usually a pretty good indication of the general state of cleanliness.
After I watched the video and filled out the paperwork, I had to choose a suit. Most were camouflage, in military style. After I suited up, the team put a harness on me. According to Alex, the harness attaches to you in 14 different ways. He had to adjust every one of them! I stood patiently as he worked his way through the loops and snaps. As he went, he explained a lot of things to me. He also asked if I was nervous, and surprising, I wasn’t at all. I had done it before, and all I remember is loving every minute of it. All I felt was excitement!
After getting through the complicated harness, Alex talked me through what to expect for my jump:
- A few minutes before the jump, he will tighten my harness and attach me tighter to himself.
- Then, he will put on my mask. It has to be so tight that it might be uncomfortable. For me, it actually wasn’t too bad. Also, he told me that the mask would probably fog up—something to do with temperature and a bunch of scientific stuff. Once he opened the plane door, the mask would clear up. Sure enough, that’s what happened.
- He would do all the work of maneuvering me to the end of the plane, but I needed to keep my feet hanging out of the plane just before the jump.
- I had to arch my back after we fell out of the plane and hold tight to the harness with my arms. I can release and relax after he taps me.
- I should keep my head up, because if I have it down I can only see one view. If I keep it up, I can see everything: the lake, the mountains, the valley, and the desert. Stunning!
Finally, after all this, we were on our way to the airport. Alex took a video of me before I went up. I think a video is a great idea! I can’t think of a better skydive souvenir. For the video, Alex asks you how you’re feeling before the jump and why you’re doing it. My answer: Why not?
We climbed into the plane. During our ascent, the view was impeccable. On one side, I could see Lake Tahoe and snow-capped mountains, and on the other I could see the desert and green fields of the valley. The contrast was breathtaking. I was in awe. Alex mentioned that in the summertime, the view is less stunning – more shades of brown and no snow—but still pretty fantastic.
When the time came, I sat on the edge of the floor with my legs out the door of the plane. WOW! I was 17,000 feet above sea level! Still, I wasn’t the least bit nervous. It was so different than my bungee jumping experience. I think it’s because this time, someone would do the jump for me. We sat there for a few moments, and then, just like he promised, Alex leaned back and hoisted the two of us forward. Down we went!
Obviously, he probably saw how daring I am from the beginning. I got a few extra spins here and there, which was just bonus awesomeness for me! Despite the cold weather and the wind gusting into my face, I was IN LOVE! The scenery was just gorgeous. It makes it worth it to do a second jump… and maybe a third, and a fourth, and a fifth! We were freefalling for a while, enjoying the view below us, and of course taking tons of photos. It was so surreal.
I wanted to take my Go Pro with me, but Alex told me that you have to have at least 200 jumps before you’re allowed to record your dive. This is mainly because you’ll probably end up focusing more on fiddling with your camera than on the jump. This is so true! I guess I’d rather enjoy it in person, anyway, and let Alex do the photo snapping.
When it was time to pull the chute, everything became suddenly silent. The wind disappeared and we could finally hear well enough to have a conversation. I told Alex that his job is pretty freaking awesome. What an incredible feeling—and he gets to do it every day!
The thrill was not over yet. Alex warned me that he was about to adjust my harness. I would fall a few inches, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I hardly felt the drop, but I was glad he had warned me.
Alex maneuvered the chute a little and asked me if I get motion sick. I told him no, and boy, was I glad that I don’t! He started playing around with the controls, and we begin spinning through a fantastic series of twists and turns. I pulled right first, and we twirled around and around. I tried the left, too. We did one trick where I pulled left until he gave me the cue, and then I pulled on the right, and then on both. It was so much fun! My inner child and the adventurous spirit in me was screaming with joy; I was one happy girl.
Our ride began to come to an end. He explained to me how we had to land. He said that the ground comes up to meet you faster that you’d expect, and all I had to do was lift my legs and toes in front of me. If I could stand, then I should try; if not, we could land on our bums. I was glad that he warned me about each step, so that I could know what to expect. We had a little time to burn, so we played around a bit more until said to me, “Ok, I’ll take the controls now. Lift your legs.” Boy, the ground did come up fast! I had no idea how much speed we had picked up. It really just felt like gliding, but we were apparently falling pretty quickly. Fortunately for me, I’m good at following directions, and we landed oh-so-smoothly—and NOT on our bums!
It all started and ended so fast. Everything that happened took just a few minutes! The second my feet touched the ground, I wanted to beg like a little kid, “Just one more, please?” Of course, I restrained myself. Although I totally would have done it again if I could!
Dave was there waiting for us in the landing area, taking photos and congratulating us for our smooth landing. I was so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling. To be honest, though, I’m usually smiling anyway! I smiled even bigger when I saw the Jeep that Dave came to pick us up in. Man, pimp my ride! It was one cool Jeep. The day just couldn’t get any better. In the Jeep, Dave gave me some water and drove us back to the office. They transferred my photos and videos to a USB, and since nobody else was there, we watched some of the clips.
What a wonderful day, and what a great experience! The whole things was definitely worth it, and you really get a lot more than you bargain for. You know, I was raving about my first sky dive experience in Australia because I got to tick off a bucket list item, but this—I might rave about this forever.
I seriously considered going for a second jump, but it was time to say goodbye. My mom, grandma, and her siblings were waiting for me, so I had to go. As soon as I got in the car, I started talking about my jump and never stopped! Of course, they know that I’m a daring soul, but still they laughed about how ecstatic I was.
If I ever find myself in Tahoe again, this is one activity I will definitely come back for—that and the hiking trails. I don’t know why people hardly go to the Valley. Some may say that there’s nothing to do there, but I left a piece of my heart in the scenic valley.