It's easy to explore Central Oregon by hiking and biking its single-track trails, paddling its pristine rivers, and climbing its rugged mountains. But there is one outdoor area that is often overlooked: its big, blue skies. For the intrepid Bendite, the terrain above is now accessible. Two skydiving businesses—Skydive Awesome! and Velocity Sports Equipment—are putting Central Oregon on the map as a skydiving destination, making it easier than ever to experience this intense sport.
Making the jump
Situated in the Western-theme town of Sisters, alongside a handful of small planes at the small Sisters Eagle Airport, Skydive Awesome! is doing big things for Central Oregon skydivers.
The drop zone is the passion project of co-owners Cara and Stephen Rosier and Laura and Ryan Scothern. The quartet counts more than 15,000 jumps between them; they compete across the country, performing tandem and group jumps. When another local drop zone closed down, they set up shop in Sisters in March, offering tandem jumps and classes for novices and fun jumps for pros.
Skydive Awesome! quickly inducted several students into their unique AST (Advanced Skydiver Training) program, which offers more comprehensive and focused training than usual, according to Ryan Scothern.
"The standard is you become a skydiver in about eight skydives, and then you have to learn through experience. We felt that was inadequate," says Ryan Scothern.
The team developed their own training program, building on USPA (United States Parachute Association) guidelines for the basic minimum training and expanding it across everything they had learned from their many years in the sport.
Their aim is to make Skydive Awesome! the safest and smartest jumpers at any drop zone in the world.
"For us, all of our students are like our skydiving kids," says Cara Rosier. "We want to see them grow and learn and become accomplished in the sport.
One of those students, 25-year-old Scott Strauss, started skydiving almost a year ago. He says, "It's an amazing drop zone that provides such a friendly environment whether it's your first skydive or if you're experienced. You immediately feel like you are part of their family."
Falling with style
While Skydive Awesome! provides the experience, Velocity Sports Equipment provides the equipment.
Currently located in Sunriver, the team at Velocity handmakes skydiving rigs, the strap-heavy backpacks that hold the parachute. In recent years, owner Kelly Farrington and his team of 12 employees have established the company as an innovator in skydiving equipment.
"I was always enthralled with the mechanics behind the parachute systems, probably more than the act of skydiving itself," he explains. "I had a lot of fun jumping, but this is where I found my niche."
The company is heralded among the skydiving community for its popular Infinity rig, but is best known for creating the parachute rig used by skydiver Felix Baumgartner during his 120,000-foot jump from space in 2012. Farrington said pushing the limits is important to the sport.
"It's not a forgiving activity," he said. "But there's a lot of freedom and creativity to it. There's plenty in the sport to challenge yourself with."
To that end, Velocity is currently helping Farrington's cousin, a famous skydiver who is training for a parachute-free jump next month.
"Free and calm"
While skydiving presents challenges both mental and monetary (tandem jumps start at $200; rigs at $2,000), Skydive Awesome! and Velocity make it easier than ever to get into this evolving sport. Skydive Awesome! offers discounts for returning jumpers and groups, along with invaluable one-on-one time. Velocity manufactures some of the best equipment in the world. And the scenery is one-of-a-kind.
"Having the Cascade Mountain range so close to the drop zone gives the jumper stunning visuals on the flight up and the flight down," Strauss said. "On a clear day you can Mt. Shasta (in California) and Mt. Rainier (in Washington)."
While the experience is different for everyone, jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet, flying 120 mph through a cloud, then floating down to Earth is sure to inspire passion in anyone.
"There's so much going on so quick, it actually opens my mind and lets me be free and calm," Ryan Scothern says. "With all the stresses of most days, it's a nice thing to be able to go up, expand your mind and relax."
For more information on Skydive Awesome!,