The Hang Gliding Association of Canada (HGAC) was formed in Calgary, Alberta, in August 1977 to create national ratings standards and obtain a national insurance policy. Since that time, the association has grown and evolved.
In 1992 the Association, always known by its French name - Association Canadienne de Vol Libre (ACVL), took on a new English name: the Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association of Canada (HPAC).
Hang Gliding in Western Canada
Hang Gliding in Western Canada started around 1971. Willi Muller,
the manager of a small Calgary ski area, was skiing at Lake Louise
watched an area employee named Les Oitz fly a Jobe tow kite down the
ski hill. He measured out the kite with his trusty ski poles, then
back to Calgary to try and build one just like it. Willi found an
English sailmaker who was able to make a sail (using nylon) after
following rough sketches, and Willi built the frame. Then out to Happy
Valley Ski Area to try it out! Happy Valley was a small 250 ft hill
overlooking the Bow River. Willi would ski down the hill, but the
just wouldn't fly! To avoid the nose of the kite d
igging into the snow
he put a ski tip on the hinge. If the nose went down it would just
This also was the time when freestyle skiing was in its infancy.
local ski instructors built a jump to try their tricks. Willi
that he would try the jump to launch his kite. Well, he didn't
far as the skiers! What was the problem? It seems that when Willi
measured out the Jobe Kite with his ski pole, he was one polelength
short on his measurements (recorded on the back of Ms Dumaurier
cigarette pack). The length of the leading edge ended up ll ft
of 13 ft 6 in! What to do? Well, Willi made a bigger kite, 15
leading edge and weighing 70 lbs (heavier is always better) and
kingpost as well. Back to the ski hill to try it out. And guess
Next day it was up to Mount Norquay Ski Area in Banff National
try it out. On the first flight Willi took off under the ski jump.
problem! So now onto the chairlift and up
to the top! Takeoff was 1,000
feet above the bottom of the ski hill, takeoff and landing speed
40 mph. The flight took about a minute. What a spectacle! The
lined the side of the hill waiting for him to take off, those
of the lodge applauded when he landed. Everybody loved it.
In the meantime, Terry Jones of Edmonton had seen a demonstration
Bill Moyes, the Australian Birdman. Terry took a trip to Australia
learn more about the sport. Two months later, having mastered
points of flying behind a boat, Terry returned to Edmonton where
gave numerous demonstrations at football games, car races and
shows. The highlight of his career was a trip to England to fly
British Formula One Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, sponsored by Players
Terry at this time had done all his flying under tow. His first
at ski launching was at Jasper Ski Area, Alberta, where he met Willi
Muller. Willi told him, "Nothing to
it, just point your skis downhill
and up you go!"
The following winter, Terry and Willi flew together constantly.
kites were larger, up to 18 feet. They even took a brief trip
California to try out foot launching on the hills that they had
The following summer at Cochrane, Alberta, Willi found out what
soaring was all about. The sport became more popular; any number
people were coming out to watch and many started buiIding their
hang gliders. In California at time, plastic sails were quite
However, in California, they had many sand dunes which meant that
flying a plastic sail was relatively safe as well as economical.
gusty Alberta, it was a little different. Nevertheless, the plastic
sail appeared on the scene at Cochrane. In these early days the
soon got to know each other. Cliff Kakish, a law student from
Saskatoon, learned to fly on a plastic kite. He made numerous
from the top of Cochrane even
in soaring conditions. One memorable
flight was made trying out the prone position. Cliff simply reversed
his seat and hung from his seatbelt.
One familiar kite on Cochrane Hill had been entirely built by
university students, John Warden and John Gonzar. They sewed the
and constructed the kite in their apartment. They lived on the
floor and stored the kite in the front room. After each day of
they hauled the kite up and into the apartment via the balcony.
Glen Cryderman earned his title of Crash during these early days.
Glen's first flight was spectacular. His seat belt was too low,
(before the day of the backstrap) he fell upside down and hung
knees before landing softly on his shoulders. Another flight resulted
in the use of a colorcoordinated cushion attached to the seat
comfort. Glen's most serious injury occurred during these early
flights. He landed downwind with his foot in a gopher hole and
ligaments in his leg. Glen eventually changed his technique and
sure that in he case of a hard landing, his kite and not his body
In January 1972, Big White Ski Area in Kelowna decided to host
World Snow Kite Championships. The first year only local pilot
Jones flew, but the following year most of the flyers from Western
Canada were there as were several noted flyers from the United
The chief judge was Bill Bennett. Bob Wills, Chris Price, Dick
and Dave Cronk were all present. Dave Cronk amazed spectators
flights on his spectacular Cronkite. Dick Eipper discovered that
plastic sails and the Canadian winter were not compatible. That
there were twenty seven competitors. It was the first organized
competition in Canada and a great success.
The archives contains a number of documents which may be of historical interest: