When Mountain Lions fly

Allison Speir

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What is the epitome of adrenaline? How about jumping out of the open doorway of a small plane, 12,500 feet above the eastern plains of Colorado? 

     At the beginning of this month, several UCCS students were brave enough to voluntarily hurl themselves out of a plane and free fall toward earth. On Oct. 3, the UCCS Student Outdoor Learning Experience (SOLE) program took a group of thrill-seeking students to Out of the Blue Skydiving in Limon, about one and a half hours east of campus.  

     The group went tandem skydiving, which means that an experienced instructor was strapped to each participant’s back to ensure a safe jump and a soft landing. Students flew in a plane for about six minutes to reach an altitude of approximately 12,500 feet, jumped out to experience a free fall for 60 seconds and floated down under a parachute’s canopy for five minutes.  

     Everyone who attended this trip had their reasons for taking the leap of faith. Sophomore and nursing student Savannah Burris said, “I recognized my opportunity to mark skydiving off my bucket list, so I signed up!”  

     Sophomore theater arts and drama major Robert Zarkovacki joked that he did not need much of an incentive to make the jump. “My mom said if I did it she’d give me a banana and that really motivated me,” he said. 

     Katie Carrington, an instructor at Out of the Blue, said she has seen many people experience the excitement and terror of a first jump. “There’s nothing like it. It’s something that you really can’t simulate,” she said. “I want jumpers to have a blast and know what it feels like to fly!” 

     Of course, our intrepid flying Mountain Lions did not let fear get the best of them.  

     Burris says that while she was not anxious the day of the jump, people were joking around that there was a chance that her parachute might not open. She figured the chances of this occurring were relatively slim, so she was willing to take the risk. 

     “This trip was a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. 

     The last time Jared Zarkovacki, a sophomore in gender studies and accounting, went skydiving, he ended up not jumping because the harness felt uncomfortable. This time, though, he made the plunge. 

     “It was freezing,” he said. “But other than that it was pretty cool.” 

     Regardless of any fears they might have had going in, the participants rated their skydiving trip with a big thumbs up. They agreed that making the jump was an amazing experience and worth overcoming any anxieties they might have had beforehand.   

     Even if you are not a daredevil skydiver, you are sure to find an adventure through the SOLE program. Maybe a quiet night hike at Garden of the Gods is more your speed. Or how about a powdery skiing trip up in Loveland? SOLE has a trip available for every UCCS adventurer and, in most cases, no parachute is required.