The dog days of summer may be upon us, but don’t let the heat and humidity stop you from enjoying the great outdoors here in the Valley. Looking for a low-key outing? Take a hike or a bike ride, or perhaps a sail on the Hudson. Need a little more excitement? How about tubing, rock climbing — or skydiving? No matter what thrill level you seek, these 10 invigorating excursions are guaranteed to get your heart racing
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While many people think it’s utterly insane to jump out of a plane flying 13,000 feet high, the allure of skydiving still attracts scores of thrill-seekers each year.
Based out of Schenectady, Mohawk Valley Skydiving is one of the busier Capital Region sites, offering coaching with state-of-the-art equipment to ensure a safer yet exciting dive. But if you’ve driven around Ulster County recently, you’ve likely seen cars adorned with “Skydive the Ranch” bumper stickers from Gardiner’s Blue Sky Ranch — arguably the most popular skydive spot in the Valley.
There, the first jump is done in tandem with an experienced professional. The tandem instructor is connected to a harness on the student’s back and wears a large parachute capable of carrying the extra weight. The jump is made from about 13,500 feet in the air, and after free-falling to 6,000 feet — which is said to feel less like falling and more like floating — the student activates the parachute, decreasing the pair’s speed and sending them on a descent to the targeted landing zone. This might sound exciting to some and frightening to many, but others say the scariest part is actually signing the liability release form prior to the jump — a five-to-seven-page waiver acknowledging the sobering fact that such an activity presents the risk of “permanent catastrophic injuries, disfigurement, or death” (as noted in the Ranch’s form).
If any, most injuries occur upon landing, but following directions given by the tandem instructor generally keeps them to a minimum. Also, for safety reasons, skydiving is not recommended for everyone. The Blue Sky Ranch requires that first-time jumpers be at least 18 years old and weigh no more than 225 pounds (with some exceptions). Safety is often in the hands of the jumper, and as long as he or she makes good judgment calls, listens to instructions, and remembers a few ground rules, skydiving can be a thrilling experience.
A possible side effect of a first-time jump is a lingering sense of vertigo that can last for up to a few days in some cases. To prevent this and other maladies, many locations suggest telling the instructor about any heart conditions, recent blood donations, SCUBA diving excursions, or medications taken that could impair the mind.
Mohawk Valley Skydiving
Mohawk Valley Airport, Schenectady
Skydive the Ranch at Blue Sky Ranch
55 Sandhill Rd., Gardiner