From Your Toes to Your Nose: A Sense of Lake Tahoe From 500 Feet

When I signed up to go parasailing with Ski Run Boat Company of South Lake Tahoe, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I definitely had some preconceived notions.  First, I thought I would be flying solo.  Second, I thought take off would be from the water and I would be soaked afterwards. Third, I thought I would soar pretty close to the water — perhaps 40 or 50 feet over the crystal blue.  It’s not that I’m afraid of heights; I’m just not really pro falling.

Booking a flight online was a breeze, as was checking in at the beach the day of.  Arriving 30 minutes prior, all I needed to do was complete a form and I was given a boarding pass with 500’ printed on it.  That should have been my first clue.  Boarding took place at 1:25 p.m. for the 1:30 p.m. departure.  As Bryan, our flight attendant, called for the ticketed passengers, I realized I wasn’t going to be the only one on the boat.  Nine other folks climbed aboard: a family from LA, a family from Michigan and a cute couple from Tahoe. Nervous chatter ensued as we waited for our pilot to arrive.  As we exchanged pleasantries, Bryan asked who was flying versus who was just spectating, who had flown before, and offered to stash loose materials.   

Once Captain Mark hopped aboard, he made us feel at ease with a couple of well-timed jokes.  And just like that we were pushing off shore. To my delight, everyone was flying today so we were all in this together.  Soon Bryan was fitting me with a life preserver and strapped me into a simple harness.  Someone had to go first. The sooner I went up, the sooner I would be back down.  Once my straps were secured and my shoes, hat and phone stashed, the two-man crew unfurled an enormous parachute.  With just the slightest wind, it instantly bloomed 20 feet behind the boat, rhythmically clapping as we bounded over the water.

Instructions were passed along: sit on the back of the boat to take off, land on your feet when reeled back in, and if you want to come down scissor kick five times.  Getting hooked up to the rigging took all of 30 seconds, just long enough to realize there was no turning back. Captain Mark peered over his sunglasses and asked whether we wanted to get dipped into the lake, which of course is a must.  The option ranged “from your toes to your nose.”  

Before you know it, you’re lightly being pulled away from the boat by this inflated red, white and blue semicircle.  Sitting in a swing-like seat, gracefully being tugged upwards, the boat below kept getting smaller and smaller.

Sailing above Lake Tahoe at 500 feet, you see the scale of the largest alpine lake in the U.S. Snow still sits up on Mount Tallac in mid June, and the beaches are full of revelers.  Boats dot the lake below where folks are participating in water sports, fishing or simply cruising.  At that height you’re all alone except for the one or two other people you’re flying with. “I guess now is the time to tell you I’m afraid of heights,” I said to my unsuspecting tandem who drew the short straw of her odd-sized group. I was only half joking.  After a minute of realizing that the only way down was to be pulled back in, it was easy to relax and enjoy the peaceful serenity parasailing offers.

There is a feeling of weightlessness since you constantly feel like you might take off if not attached to the line.  Everything looks so small below you, yet you can still make out the detail of familiar landmarks and buildings.  Captain Mark turns to the right and to the left, carving out a C and then an S in the water. Moments later is another vantage point.  Strapped in, you can really only see what’s in front of you and off to one side.  Captain Mark turns to not only show you all the beauty of Lake Tahoe, but to avoid wind pockets that make for a bumpy ride.

Before you know it, the launch pad of our boat starts to get closer and closer, while the water appears underfoot.  It’s at this moment that you wonder if you told Captain Mark toes or nose.  Expertly he dips you to the appropriate depth and then shoots you back up about 40 feet to air dry before reeling you onto the boat like a prized catch. 

As each group repeats the experience, nervous chatter turns into shared excitement.  Offer up your phone or camera and ask for photos, because unless you have a leash, you won’t need your camera in flight.  Swimwear is recommended since you should take advantage of a full dip, and on a hot summer day you’ll dry off quickly.  A tight-fitting hat and sunglasses will add to your boat experience.

One hour later, and we were back ashore.  After tipping the crew, stop by Riva Grill for their world-famous wet woody or sit outside at Artemis for a falafel plate and reflect on the moment.  You can see Lake Tahoe from many angles, but high above the water is pretty special.  Even if you’re just a little afraid of heights.


By: Jaxon Sullivan


To see our full experience with Ski Run Boat Company and all they have to offer, check out our video >>