Watching BASE jumpers launch from the Stawamus Chief is one of my favourite things about living in Squamish.
It is just so freaking cool.
But BASE jumpers sometimes get a bad rap in town and it isn’t fair, frankly, or rational.
If we post a story, photo or video depicting the sport, a stream of comments from ‘”Is that even legal?” ( it is!) to “They should pay for SAR” often follow.
Strangely, there isn’t the same backlash against rock climbers or mountain bikers, who make up their fair share of SAR calls.
Here are some facts I have learned about the local BASE community.
Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 jumps happen per year off the Stawamus Chief.
Video by Chris Dale.
BASE jumpers in Squamish are made up of medics, veterans, ski patrollers, pilots, rope access workers, coast guard personnel, and professional athletes.
Many moved here because of the Chief.
Last year, the BASE community raised $1,500 for Squamish SAR.
In 2019, there was only one minor BASE jumping incident at the Chief. (People, including reporters, often mistake paraglider pilots for BASE jumpers or visa versa.)
BASE jumpers say they understand it is a dangerous sport; none have a death wish, none want to injure themselves or put anyone else’s life in danger. Thus, they train constantly.
BASE jumpers live by the mantra: “it’s not always the right decision to walk down, but it’s never the wrong one.” By this they mean if the conditions aren’t perfect they will not jump — it’s just not worth it.
BASE jumpers in our area are experienced in the sport and its different sub-disciplines.
To become a BASE jumper takes a lot of time, money, and experience: training as a skydiver in various disciplines before taking a BASE-jumping course and finding a mentor.
Like skiing or mountain biking, BASE jumpers have various exit points that are green, blue, black or double black-equivalent and understanding your level in BASE jumping is as important as it is in skiing and biking.
As a beginner BASE jumper, you will not don a wingsuit. This is an additional skill that will take extra training and education in the skydiving environment.
Next, the wingsuit is taken to other easier and higher mountains in Europe before returning to the Chief.
BASE jumpers spend a lot of time studying and improving; understanding the weather, understanding local meteorology, medical training, rope access, climbing, parachute rigging, flying techniques and self-rescue.
It isn’t your thing? OK.
But at least give BASE jumpers the respect you afford our other elite athletes.
They deserve at least that.