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India, Born to fly high

India, Born to fly high
Paragliding is an adventure sport you might not relate with India and it’s normal for many to raise a skeptical voice while talking about paragliding options in India. However this enthralling activity has been a part of tourism scene for quite some time, which has given rise to some of the tremendous paragliding locations as well. Billing valley in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh tops the list.
The Kangra valley not only hosts the world’s most famous exile at Dharamsala, it is also home to the snowy majesty of the Dhauladhars and century-old tea estates in and around Palampur, and now possibly one of the world’s best take-off points for paragliding at Billing. Experts also claim that Billing is the second best paragliding site after one in South Africa.

Having immense possibilities and potential for this adventure sport, the hilly state is all set to host the Paragliding World Cup at Bir Billing area of Kangra district in October this year. This is for the first time that World Cup is being <g data-gr-id="85">organised</g> in India.  This nine-day event would give <g data-gr-id="146">boost</g> to the sports and tourism activities in the state and the international participants, <g data-gr-id="75">pilots</g> and other visitors would also be able to witness the majestic beauty of Kangra valley.

Best natural site for sport
Billing is the best paragliding destination in India. While Billing serves as the landing field, the Bir, set at an elevation of 2,600 m, is <g data-gr-id="87">from </g>where you fly off. Moreover, Bir is known for its regular thermal and ridge lifts techniques. Situated 70 <g data-gr-id="92">kms</g> from the well-connected Mandi, this paragliding site is perfect for a visit during March till early June as the cool winds wait to take you high in <g data-gr-id="97">sky</g>.

Experts believe that the site is God-gifted as the natural space for the adventure sport and its an open valley which is an ideal place to fly. “The open valley at about 2,400 m height creates the best position to take off. Another best thing about the site is that it has a proper wind flow and the tree line along with the slope of the valley is an added advantage,” said Lakhan, a pilot and local resident at Billing who is engaged with the sport for last seven years. While Puran Chand, who runs a small café at the top of the valley and whose son is also a pilot says, “Billing has the best landing point with proper natural spacing and one more thing which makes Billing <g data-gr-id="123">an unique</g> destination is that it has no parallel peak which lessens the risk factor.” 

After bagging the rights for hosting its first World Cup, the Valley is gearing up to prove its worth. Himachal Pradesh’s Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, who was unanimously elected as the president of Billing Paragliding Association during the annual general meeting, said that Paragliding World Cup is scheduled to be held from October 23 to 31. He said that infrastructure will be developed keeping in view the international standards. He said that prior to the World Cup, National Championship will be held from October 18 to 20.

Gearing up for <g data-gr-id="77">mega-event</g>
The Minister also said that parasailing activities will be started at the two spots Dharamsala and Pong Dam for which ACI (Aero Club of India) has allocated two vehicles with six para-sails. He said that Rs 2.50 crore will be spent on the upgradation of roads and infrastructure, Rs 95 lakh on the development of takeoff site and Rs 55 lacs on the landing site. He also said that so far 47 countries have registered for participation in the World Cup and <g data-gr-id="112">as</g> per the instructions of ACI, <g data-gr-id="115">Biling</g> Paragliding Association  will be the parent body to regulate this sport all over India.

He added that keeping in view the World Cup and local tourism potential, he had met the 
Airports Authority of India’s Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD) R K Srivastava in New Delhi with the request to install Doppler Very High Frequency Omni System at Gaggal Airport near Dharamshala to improve visibility for landing of regular flights. A team from AAI will soon visit Kangra for putting up DVOR system. He said that Paragliding World Cup will pave the way for further developing the tourism potential in the entire Kangra district. He said that in addition to the participants in the World Cup several tourists from all over the country and the world will visit the area during the event.

Pre-world cup has already tasted the adventure
More than 100 <g data-gr-id="94">para-gliders</g> from across the globe took part in the <g data-gr-id="93">Pre World</g> Cup from October 24 to October 30.” More than 100 para-gliders took part in the event which saw them undertaking various routes and challenges. The spot is second largest paragliding site in the world after <g data-gr-id="96">Dras</g> in South Africa and we are excited about the world cup now,” said Debu Chaudhary, secretary of 
Billing Paragliding Association.

<g data-gr-id="126">Pre World</g> Cup offered an overall first cash prize of Rs 2.5 Lakh while the runners-up and second runner-up got a cash prize of Rs 2 Lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh each. Prizes were also given in other categories like Indian Class, Women Class, <g data-gr-id="117">Sport</g> Class and best newcomer of the event. The prominent male para-gliders who took part in the event were <g data-gr-id="127">Jammi</g> Messenger from United Kingdom (Rank 27), Michael Gierlach of Poland (Rank 47), Raul Penso of <g data-gr-id="128">Venuzuela</g> (Rank 49) while the women’s category saw the likes of <g data-gr-id="129">Issbella</g> Messenger of Germany (Rank 4), Daria Krasnova of Russia (Rank 6) and <g data-gr-id="130">Khibi</g> Jab Minar of South Africa (Rank 18).

Last year’s national champion Vijay Soni led India’s charge in the event. “We were excited to host the event in Himachal Pradesh. Apart from the cash prizes, the association  also gave a 23 Carat gold medal to the winners in the <g data-gr-id="82">honour</g> of late Raja Padam Singh of Rampur Bushair,” informed Sudhir Sharma.

Locals getting associated
The nondescript village Beed has seen its journey to a popular and now a happening tourist happening in last 10 years. The arrival of more Tibetans monks has certainly brought in more exposure to the scenic beauty. “It has become a trend that whosoever will come to the Tibetan monastery in Dharamshala will certainly drop <g data-gr-id="131">in to</g> the Billing Valley. The footfall of foreign tourist has also increased manifold due to the <g data-gr-id="120">ever-happening</g> Mcleodganj monastery and now the HPCA cricket stadium,” said Rakesh Mehra, a hotel owner in the area. Besides, the adventurous sport is also becoming a tool for the locals of the area. “Earlier only five-seven locals were associated with the game as they used to take it as foreigners’ game. While now locals are getting associated and more than 100 youngsters have picked it up as their career. They have become pilots and doing wonders in the game,” said Lakhan, who himself is a local and a trained pilot now. 

Scenic beauty
The charming Indian town of Bir is known worldwide as a destination for ecotourism and meditation <g data-gr-id="158">studies,</g> and is praised by visitors from all corners of the earth for its natural beauty. <g data-gr-id="159">Bir</g> is situated in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas in the Kangra District of HP, amidst paths winding through tea gardens into the forests and mountains to the north. The greater Bir area (which includes Billing, the Tibetan Colony in Chowgan, <g data-gr-id="160">Ghornala</g>, and Sherab Ling in <g data-gr-id="161">Bhattu</g>) is home to a diverse community of over a thousand Indian villagers, a Tibetan refugee settlement, and a small but growing international population (including students of meditation and philosophy, volunteers, and seasonal waves of paragliders and other outdoors enthusiasts).

Did you know?

 The Paragliding World Cup is a cross country flying competition for paraglider pilots, organised by the PWCA. Each year, the Paragliding World Cup Tour visits 5-6 different locations worldwide. At each <g data-gr-id="197">event</g> several tasks are flown to establish the overall classification

The goal of each competition task is to fly <g data-gr-id="192">round</g> a predetermined course with a start, some turn points (usually 4-6) and a finish line. Slightly simplified, the winner is the fastest pilot round the course, or the pilot who flew furthest if no one completes the course

Pilots carry a GPS receiver to record their flight track, which is afterwards used to verify that they correctly followed the course and determine timings

Over 300 pilots from around the world will participate in the World Cup

Billing is the second best destination for paragliding in the world after <g data-gr-id="191">Dras</g> in South Africa

Event is being organised in collaboration with the state government

The government has already released Rs 2.6 crore for the preparation of the event

The Chief Minister is monitoring the preparations of the events
Parveen  K Dogra

Parveen K Dogra

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