TIME Extreme Sports

Watch These Wingsuit Daredevils Make Risky Jumps for Internet Fame

Videos featuring extreme stunts are more and more common online, but some worry about the consequences as amateurs attempt riskier jumps

Wingsuit flying – a sport in which people glide through the air while wearing a specialized suit – was first attempted in Switzerland in 2003.

More than 10 years later, the spectacular sport attracts hundreds of aficionados every year: recent estimates put the number of people practicing wingsuiting at about 2,000, AFP reports.

And as the sport becomes more popular, so have the videos shared online featuring daring stunts, turning expert wingsuiters into Internet sensations. Some are seen flying perilously close to mountainsides and approaching the record flying speed of 363 kph.

“Video has a positive side,” Vincent Descols, a wingsuit flier, told AFP. “It allows us to fine-tune the art of flight: the accuracy, the height at which to open the parachute.”

“But other videos are a problem because they give the impression that it’s easy,” Descols added.
Some worry that the online spread of wingsuit videos could be encouraging amateurs to take unprecedented risks. According to the Base Jumping Fatality List, there were 21 wingsuit deaths worldwide in 2013.

 

 

 

TIME Tourism

Ski Resorts Want You to Pay for Next Season’s Skiing Right Now

Resorts are trying to get skiers locked in as loyal guests next season—and simultaneously keep them away from competitor mountains—with major deals for early-bird purchases.

America’s biggest ski resorts are at it again. For a variety of reasons, starting with recent seasons of less-than-stellar snow and ending with increasingly aggressive tactics in the pursuit of customer loyalty throughout the industry, resort companies are upping their game to convince skiers and boarders that they should pay for next season’s skiing mere days after the current season has ended.

And how do they get customers to commit so far in advance? By waving special offers that are often so good customers can’t refuse.

Two of the industry’s biggest players, Vail Resorts and Intrawest, make it easy even for those who are currently struggling to pay off credit card bills related to the ski season just in the rear-view mirror, by allowing customers to lock in pass prices now with only a $49 down payment. Once that’s been paid, the company has your credit card information—and before next ski season begins, your card will automatically be charged for the balance.

Vail, which owns and operates ten major ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly, and Kirkwood, offers a wide variety of passes. The unrestricted Epic Pass is at the top price-wise, running $729 (up $40 from special prices available last summer), with a range of cheaper options for special buyer categories (kids, seniors, college students) and for skiers who can live with more restrictions (blackout dates, fewer resorts, etc.). Considering that a single-day walkup ticket can run well over $100 at a place like Vail, it’s easy to see how these season passes are well worth the money for even a moderate skier who figures to log in, say, 10 or 12 days of making turns each winter.

For diehards putting in a few dozen days per season on the mountain, these passes are no-brainers. They’re probably even underpriced. Why, then, do ski companies keep prices so low?

The big reason is that they want skiers to commit their money—and their loyalty—early, long before anyone can tell if the season’s snow will be good or bad (and potentially not worth the trip at all). They also want customers to commit because doing so largely eliminates the possibility that these skiers will wind up spending a day, let alone an entire week’s vacation, at a competitor resort. After you’ve already coughed up a few hundred bucks for a pass, after all, you’ll want to use it rather than paying more money out of pocket.

The ski companies are also well aware of the powerful trickle-down effect of selling one pass. The likely result is that the passholder will wind up spending money in resort-area restaurants, bars, and hotels, perhaps over the course of seven, ten, or many more days. And pass purchases beget pass purchases, as skiers and boarders tend to buy passes at the same places as their skier and boarder family and friends.

In fact, the Intrawest Passport pushes group sales by directly incentivizing family and friends to buy their passes together. One adult pass, which grants six days of mountain access at each of the company’s six North American resorts (including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Stratton in Vermont, and Tremblant in Quebec), costs $589. But up to five additional adult passes purchased at the same time cost $449 each, and up to five kids ages 12 and under are totally free. The deal gets more appealing when you add more people to the mix—and bringing more customers to Intrawest’s resorts is exactly what the company wants.

Each of the many ski pass programs in North America features different price points and inclusions, but they all have one thing in common: They want your money asap. Intrawest is only guaranteeing current pricing through April 30. The Mountain Collective, which provides two days apiece at resorts like Whistler-Blackcomb and Aspen-Snowmass and 50% off the regular rate thereafter, is throwing in an extra free day at your choice of mountains for a vague “while supplies last” period. The Mountain Collective pass is now $359, up from $349 last season, and runs $99 for kids 12 and under.

Another pass partnership, the Powder Alliance, hasn’t announced its policies for the upcoming season yet. If they remained unchanged from 2013-2014, all season passholders from a dozen resorts will automatically get three free days each at all of the other participating resorts, including Stevens Pass in Washington, Crested Butte in Colorado, Snowbasin in Utah, and Schweitzer in Idaho. And yes, you can expect discounts for buying passes early. The pricing at Schweitzer, for instance, generally calls for 2014-2015 passes to rise by $100 as of June 1. The takeaway is pretty obvious: Smart skiers will want to lock in a lower price now.

TIME Accidents

Skydiver Participating in World Record Attempt Dies After Chute Malfunctions

Skydiving Death
Henny Wiggers—AP Members of the World Team join together in a missing man formation during a jump over Eloy, Ariz., Thursday, April 3, 2014, after one of the group died during a jump earlier in the day.

"It had nothing to do with the size of the group or the aircraft," a spokesman for her team told media. The attempt to have 222 people skydiving simultaneously over Arizona would have set a new world record

Officials in Arizona have confirmed that one skydiver died on Thursday after her parachute malfunctioned during a 222-person jump aimed at setting a new world record.

German skydiver Diana Paris reportedly fell to her death after her main parachute was released too low to the ground for the reserve chute to work, according to CNN. Paris was a member of World Team, which was trying set a new world record by completing two distinct aerial formations with over 200 participants.

“It had nothing to do with the size of the group or the aircraft,” World Team spokeswoman Gulcin Gilbert told the Associated Press.

Paris reportedly had completed more than 1,500 free-falls before the ill-fated jump.

[CNN]

TIME

Surf’s Way Up: Garrett McNamara Claims to Ride Record Wave in Portugal

To Mane—Barcroft Media/Landov Jan. 28, 2013. U.S. surfer Garrett McNamara rides a wave off Praia do Norte beach in Nazare, Portugal. McNamara is said to have broken his own world record for the largest wave surfed when he caught this wave reported to be around 100ft, off the coast of Nazare. If the claims are verified, it will mean that McNamara, who was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts but whose family moved to Hawaii's North Shore when he was aged 11, has beaten his previous record, which was also set at Nazare, of 23.77 meters (78 feet) in November 2011.

On Monday, Garrett McNamara surfed what’s thought to be a 100-foot wave, the largest swell ever ridden by a surfer. TIME spoke with McNamara about his incredible feat.

“In Nazaré, Portugal, the ocean is known as a place of death, not of riding waves,” pro surfer Garrett McNamara admits. If that’s the case, McNamara must be the tamer of the sea. Because on Monday, January 28, he surfed what’s thought to be a 100-foot wave, the largest swell ever ridden by a surfer.

McNamara, better known as GMAC, is thought to have broken the world record previously held by, well, himself. In 2011, at the very same spot, he surfed a 78-foot wave, getting his name into the record books. For him, it was an experience so thrilling that Monday, he was at it again, surfing some of the largest waves in the world, including a possible 100-footer that is expected to shatter his previous record.

In the small town of Nazaré, on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, a single red lighthouse stands at the shoreline. The small road leading to the lighthouse is, on any normal day, completely deserted. But on Monday, hundreds of people packed the road — photographers and spectators — as the huge swells battered the rocky shoreline. But most cameras seemed unable to capture the height of the sea from such a close vantage point — lauded surf photographer To Mane took a much wider angle, ultimately capturing a stunning view of McNamara’s ride atop the unfathomable wave.

The shoreline of Nazaré produces some of the biggest waves in the world because of its physics: a canyon about 10 miles out into the Atlantic, McNamara says, that’s up to five miles at its mouth, gets narrower and narrower as it approaches the shoreline. “They get compressed, and just before they reach the rocks on the shoreline they stand up and reach their full potential,” he explains, giddy as a child.

And it wasn’t a mission without danger, McNamara recounts. As he sailed down from the top of the wave, he paddled frantically to escape the crush of oncoming waves. The footage from his GoPro camera strapped to the edge of his board revealed he made a near-deadly turn, ending up perilously close to the rocky coast.

He first surfed Nazaré in 2010 at the behest of a surfer friend, returning in 2011 to break the world record. Initially thought to be a 90-foot wave, it was later measured to be 78 feet high, no less a stunning feat and enough to get his name into the record books.

And he returned again this year to best himself – by all spectator accounts he seems to have done so. But it’s not about breaking records for the 45-year-old surfer: “The only competition is myself, and even still I work every day to not have to do that,” he says.

To be instated in the record books, the team at Guinness will now have to research exactly how high the wave stood up. While it may not measure up to the predicted 100-foot mark, it’s no smaller of a feat.

But as the euphoria subsides, McNamara, for his part, is unconcerned. He’s simply focused on his next surfing mission — finding “perfect barrel” waves on his home beaches in Hawaii or perhaps even on the reefs of Indonesia or Tahiti.


Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone.


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