Everything you need to know about... Speed riding

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The Independent Online

What is it?

A terrifying, and largely unregulated, hybrid of paragliding and skiing, whose popularity is suddenly soaring.

How does it work?

Each speed rider skis down a slope, before utilising a small wing to soar off the slope and into the air. The wing inflates as the speed rider accelerates, effectively converting it into a parachute steered by pulling on strings attached to each hand. The speed rider then hits the slope again at speed, continuing his journey to the finish line.

How dangerous is it?

Potentially lethal: some ski resorts have already banned the practice, following a spate of deaths. Only experienced skiers should really be speed riding, and beginners are required to start out on wide slopes with soft snow and limited rock on their faces. Advanced speed riders descend up to 5,000ft, hitting 40 mph, so the potential for fatal crashes is huge.

How old is it?

Speed riding was pioneered by a coterie of Frenchmen some five years ago.

Where is it tried out?

With the close of the ski season, speed riding is being tried out right across the ski resorts of Europe. Throughout the Alps there are ski resorts full of competitors and instructors.

How do I have a go?

Start off in France, because instructors there must have a paragliding licence from the French Free Flight Federation, which is at www.ffvl.fr

Where can I watch speed riding?

There is footage on YouTube and information at the Les Arcs school in France: http://www.speedriding-school.com/ speedflying-school.html. Antoine Montant, a French pioneer, speed riding down the north face of the Eiger can be seen at: http://tinyurl.com/8p2vzk

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