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Bird Takes Flight

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Twisp native Michael Shaffer’s nickname is “Bird,” but up until now the Bird has mostly been ground-bound. Not anymore. Shaffer is learning speed-flying, which is a combination of skiing and paragliding. Yes, the Bird has taken to the air.

The Bird was caught on video Christmas week near his family’s home on Poorman Creek outside Twisp. The video was produced by Shaffer’s nephew, Liberty Bell junior Alex Bosco.

Warning: video soundtrack contains adult language

Video by Alex Bosco, Nick Bosco and Michael Shaffer. Video production, editing and mixing by Alex Bosco. Soundtrack is "Garden Grove" by Sublime.

Speed-flying is a new sport that evolved recently in Europe and involves a combination of skiing and paragliding. As seen in the video, a skier lays out a kite (referred to as a “wing”) and takes off down the mountain. Advanced speed-flyers can take off and touch down repeatedly, skiing some terrain, while flying over obstacles such as cliffs, houses or fences.

“It’s like skiing in the sky,” said Shaffer, who grew up in the Methow and now lives in Leavenworth and runs a clothing company called Bird Where.

The desire to have a bird’s eye view of the world is not new to Shaffer. Bird remembers his dad, who was a fighter pilot, leaving the house and telling the family he was going out to fly.

“So naturally, at age four, I believed that I could fly too. I crawled up on the balcony railing and, with arms outstretched and eyes to the horizon, I flew for the first time: directly to the ground,” wrote Shaffer.

So far, his speed-flying landings have been softer, but Shaffer says he still has tons to learn. He’s flown just eight times so far.

“I’m still learning how to turn, how to sit back in the harness and make big, swooping turns,” said Shaffer. “It’s a pretty dang special feeling and with the right wind conditions and location it can be fairly safe.”

The video itself is the creation of Shaffer’s nephew Alex Bosco, a junior at Liberty Bell High School.

“I’ve been interested in making videos for a long time and this one turned out pretty good,” said Bosco. While Shaffer filmed the flight from the air, Bosco got shots from the field below and later compiled, edited, and put music to the video using iMovie software on Shaffer’s Mac.

Separately, Bosco said the new Video Production class at Liberty Bell taught by Mrs. Patrick has helped further his interest and refine his production skills. The class was made possible by a technology grant, part of which was used to buy cameras, iPads and video-editing software.

“It’s a great class. Mrs. Patrick will give us assignments, such as making a silent movie and we learn how to write scripts and use professional-grade editing programs,” said Bosco.

In the future, Shaffer plans to do more soaring in the Methow and Bosco hopes to be there to shoot more video – and perhaps even give speed-flying a try himself.

“He [Shaffer] was a little nervous the first time he went up the hill near our house. He wasn’t sure he was going to go through with it,” said Bosco. “But we had several families all out watching and hooting and hollering and it turned out great.”


Patrick Hannigan is a freelance writer living in Twisp.

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