For many Central Oregonians, these are experiences that make life worth living: Skiing down the steep slopes of a mountain, trees going by at high speeds, letting gravity guide you with each turn through the snow. Or walking the tight rope, hundreds of feet above the ground, like a balancing act in the circus. Or, flying like a bird in the sky, soaring to new heights, flowing with the wind and wherever direction it takes you.
While the average Joe might enjoy just one of these activities, Central Oregonian Ari DeLashmutt has skiing, highlining and paragliding adventures on a regular basis. Both passionate and talented, DeLashmutt craves the wild experiences of the unknown and the understanding of the forces called flight.
For most of this decade, skiing has dominated DeLashmutt's career as a professional athlete. He's known as "Ari in the Air," and is always seeking more time in the air than feet planted firmly on the ground. But more recently, his time has been spent walking the tightrope and gliding through the air.
Highlining is the sport of traversing across a narrow, springy band of rope, suspended high above the ground, maintaining balance and focus while conquering fear. This is considered the pinnacle of the sport of slacklining.
In 2006, DeLashmutt started slacklining with friends at a local park, rigging a line between two trees. Learning of an event called the Smith Highline Festival, they practiced by rigging the lines higher up on the tree to simulate the intense heights and exposure at Smith Rock.
"I think the experience with the void, that is really cool. The space that you can create with a piece of rope that shape. The mental game is the most rewarding part. The places, the spaces, bolting and rigging. How to get the rope across and put up new lines. The whole backcountry experience is just amazing, too! In the beginning, I became very addicted to the headspace that one had to inhabit, just to be able to walk across the line."
His favorite highline is called the Fruit Bowl, located outside Moab, Utah. Lines vary in length from 25 to 330 feet and are 450 feet above the canyon floor. He describes it as being the most exposed and beautiful place to put up a long highline.
Paragliding involves flying a lightweight, foot-launched, non-motorized glider aircraft. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing that looks very much like a large parachute. Pilots can fly for hours, catching thermal updrafts to gain altitude and drifting though expanses of space.
While filmmaking for an episode of "The Bivy" in 2014, DeLashmutt went tandem paragliding for the first time and was instantly hooked. The episode featured a stunt combining paragliding, rope swinging and BASE jumping.
"With paragliding you learn how to make it (the glider) take you up. You can do the Ferris wheel, get way up there, push way out, you do your acro, come back down. Relax and climb."
Organya, Spain, is one paragliding paradise Ari mentions, where you can get about 6,000 feet off the ground, 10 times a day, in perfect air that takes you to the moon and back. Locally, 26 miles east of Bend, Pine Mountain offers over 15 launches, desert thermal conditions and ridge soaring; the perfect training grounds for the professional paraglider.
Paragliding and highlining have taken him all over the world, including Canada, Mexico, Morocco, Spain, France, Chili, Brazil and Peru.
In the September/October 2016 issue of "Hang Gliding & Paragliding," DeLashmutt wrote about his experiences paragliding in Morocco. Although he doesn't yet have any international trips confirmed this year, he would like to travel to Antarctica to pioneer new highlines and paraglide flights.
Rex Shepard is a professional skier, mountain biking coach, bartender and photographer who grew up in Bend, thriving off adventure. Follow him on Instagram @RexShepard to keep up with his latest outdoor experiences.
Follow Ari DeLashmutt on his website: ariintheair.com