We were climbing in elevation. Seven thousand feet. Eight thousand feet.
“Alright, get your goggles on, we’re almost there,” Tom said.
Nine thousand feet. He opened the door of the plane. I could feel my heart pounding and my eyes widen when I saw how far away the ground was. I was harnessed in, tandem style, to Tom. We stepped out on the leg of the Cessna 182 plane, Tom counted to three, then we jumped.
We did a backflip through the air, I caught my breath after a few seconds and raised my arms out to my sides. My uneasiness disappeared as we were free-falling and was replaced with laughter and cheering. After about twenty seconds of free-falling, Tom deployed our parachute. It took almost five minutes to descend all the way to the ground. Skydiving was the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
Tom Morrow, founder of Rocky Mountain Skydive in LaSalle, has lived in Colorado for 30 years. He joined the Army and was in the 4th Infantry Division based in Fort Carson, Colorado. After serving, he moved to California for a brief period and then moved back to Colorado. He took his first skydive jump in 1991.
“I pecked away at skydiving for a few years and then took it seriously in 2006 and decided to open a drop zone,” Tom said.
Opening a drop zone is no easy task, but after contacting nearly every airport in the state, he struck a deal at the Easton-Valley View Airport and created Rocky Mountain Skydive three years ago. The pilot is a local from Greeley and four other instructors work there as well. Tom leases his plane - a Cessna 182 with wing extensions and a 05-50 motor - from California.
Tom has about 4,000 jumps under his belt, both solo and tandem. To become a tandem instructor, a person must have a regular physical exam, 500 of their own jumps and complete a course from a skydive equipment manufacturer. Rocky Mountain Skydive uses what Tom says is the best of the best, which is called Sigma.
“Skydiving is safe if you follow the rules. As a tandem instructor, you have other lives in your hands, so it’s very important to be fully trained,” he explained. “We always use the United States Parachuting Association’s protocols as our rule book. We follow it to a T, and I have our parachutes deploy at 3,500 feet when the requirement is 2,500. I like the extra amount of time in the air as an extra safety precaution.”
If inclined, a person can jump solo their first time in an Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD) program. After completing a four-hour class, the instructor deploys the parachute for you almost immediately after exiting the plane. After five or six jumps, you are then cleared for free-fall and the instructor teaches how to work the wind doing flat splits, left and right. After 25 jumps, a person can obtain an A License and go anywhere in the world and jump solo for $30 to $40.
Rocky Mountain Skydive prides itself in being a fun, intimate skydive destination. They average about 1,000 skydive customers per year. Tom intends to bring one more plane to his location in the future to increase that amount some, but he enjoys the small size of the company, so instructors can get to know the guests on a personal level before their jump.
“We spend about an hour with each person to get to know you, let you meet the instructors and hang out before your jump and we make sure we have time to go through all your photos and videos after your jump,” Tom said. “Here at Rocky Mountain Skydive, we make sure that you have an excellent, safe adventure. Our goal is to make as many skydivers as we can.”
Visit www.rockymountainskydive.com to book your own skydive jump and be sure to tell them we sent you!