SA needs more snow:

So that we can do some of this:

SpeedFlying – France 2012 from bartoszplewa on Vimeo.

For the uninitiated, this is “Speedflying” – a crossover sport that amalgamates downhill skiing and paragliding.  The speedflying wings are very small (down to as little as 8m2, compared to around 26m2 for a normal paraglider) and are designed for speed and stability, with a large chord and narrow wingspan.  The very high wing loading (mass per unit area) combined with this profile means that the wings are very resistant to collapse, but they are also exceptionally responsive and lose dramatic height in turns.

Not all speedflying is done on ski’s: there are wings available for foot launching that have slower take-off and landing speeds, but trimmers allow them to be accelerated for descent.  They tend to be compact and light.  Another advantage is that they can be flown in stronger winds, allowing the hike-up-fly-down philosophy to expand into weather conditions not conducive to normal paragliding off mountain summits.  The big drawback is sink rate and glide angle: these are not cross-country machines.  I’ve flown the brilliant Ozone XT16 a few times, including soaring it at Dasklip Pass in strong winds that would prevented anything else launching.  Awesome.

The new classes of hybrids (somewhere between a speed wing and a paraglider) and miniwings (small wings with a normal paraglider profile) deserve to be watched with great attention by the mountaineering pilots…