Skydive Truckee Tahoe opens its doors to free-falling adventurists | SierraSun.com

Skydive Truckee Tahoe opens its doors to free-falling adventurists

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Mike Swanson is no stranger to jumping out of airplanes.

Swanson, a four-time world champion skydiver who's on the Red Bull Air Force, has free-falled through the atmosphere and parachuted to the ground a staggering 22,000 times.

And yet, when the Truckee resident skydived above the Truckee-Tahoe region last month, it gave him the kind of charge a first-timer might feel course through his or her body.

"When he landed, it was like he was doing his first jump," said Jennifer Drew, wife of Swanson. "He was so excited."

Simply put, for Swanson, seeing the stunning Truckee-Tahoe scenery — the endless stretch of green pines, the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, the sparkling-blue Lake Tahoe — from 10,000-plus feet in the air was an otherworldly experience.

"I travel all over the world for work to skydive," said Swanson, who's also a Hollywood stuntman, BASE-jumping for films such as "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and the recent "Point Break" remake. "I get the opportunity to jump in a lot of really cool places, and this is one of the coolest placed that I've jumped. It's beautiful."

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This sentiment encapsulates why Swanson and Drew, along with her sister, Jules Drew, have brought the Truckee-Tahoe region something it's never had before: a skydiving center.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

For Swanson and the Drew sisters, who have worked at skydiving centers all over the country, starting their own operation was a venture they've been wanting to jump into — with both feet — for years.

"It's such a unique place to have a drop zone," Jennifer Drew said. "There's so many drop zones all over the country, but very few have this kind of a view and this kind of a location. That's very exciting for us, to be able to offer that to people for the first time.

"I mean, the view from up there is just stunning — you get the lake (Tahoe) right there just over the hills, and then you got the mountains all around. It's gorgeous."

Before moving to Truckee eight years ago, the three previously worked at a drop zone in Paris Valley, roughly 90 minutes northwest of Los Angeles. They've also worked at skydiving centers in Florida, New Jersey and Chicago, to name a few.

"We've worked at some very busy, very big skydiving centers," Jules Drew said, "where you have three or four aircrafts going at the same time that all have 20 to 28 people in them, so it's just go, go, go — it's a pretty intense scene.

"So this is a little more low-key compared to what we were used to."

TAKING FLIGHT

The Skydive Truckee Tahoe operation consists of one plane — a turbo-charged Cessna 206 — that can fit three tandems (six people) at a time.

"We have a 20-minute ride to altitude where it's like a scenic flight," Swanson said. "You're looking out the windows and climbing over the lake and everything."

The Cessna climbs roughly 10,500 feet into the air before the tandems domino out of the plane, free-falling for 45 seconds — flipping, twisting and turning — through the crisp Tahoe air before the parachutes are deployed.

The entire experience is captured by the Skydive Truckee Tahoe instructors with a GoPro camera, giving the jumpers the option of taking home videos and photos of their skydive.

Swanson said completing the first run — which consisted of one tandem and a few fun jumpers (experienced skydivers) — a few weeks ago was "a big release."

"There was just a lot of buildup to that moment," he continued, "and as soon as feet touched the ground, it was a big release of emotions. It was cool; I was really stoked."

Swanson and the Drew sisters are hoping to bring the same rush of emotions to thrill-seekers in Truckee-Tahoe and beyond.

"The kind of people that live here and the kind of people that visit here are outdoorsy, adventurists, so we feel like it's a really good fit for the area and for the community and for visitors," Jennifer Drew said. "It's just another exciting opportunity to be outside and see the beautiful area."

Skydive Truckee Tahoe operates by appointment from May 1 to Oct. 15. To learn more, visit skydivetruckeetahoe.com.

Season-opener special

For a limited time, Skydive Truckee Tahoe is offering a locals special price of $215 — normal rate is $250 — for a tandem jump.

Additionally, a photos/video package is available for an extra $120. A video only or photos only option is also offered for $70.