The last volunteer-run skydiving club in the country is based in Moose Jaw.
Skydive South Sask has been operating out of the Moose Jaw Municipal Airport since the early 90's. The current-day version of the club was formed following the amalgamation of several smaller clubs in the area.
President Samantha MacDonald says they have about 25 regular members and are always looking for more.
"We all do little bits here and there and every little bit that somebody can do is helpful," she commented. "Because we're skydivers, we are looking out for each other so it's kind of like a great big family here."
She notes many of the members travel in from areas outside of Moose Jaw, with many making the drive from Regina. The club's airport hangar has bunks upstairs, allowing members to stay overnight.
MacDonald and her husband make the trip in from Weyburn.
"We'll stay here on weekends and we just are really supportive of each other in that manner. Every skydiver that we train, we are really just hoping that they're going to extend our family and work towards building this sport because that's really what it's about for us. Making more skydivers basically."
Many of the club members also get together during the winter months to go snowboarding and skiing in the mountains.
Samantha, who began skydiving in 2013, says it was her husband Craig that got her interested in the sport. She started with a tandem jump, which then led her to enrol in the solo Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD) Course. MacDonald now assumes multiple roles with the club including instructor. She's currently focusing on repairing parachutes and packing emergency parachutes.
"I can't get enough of it," she remarked. "If I could do this for a living, I definitely would."
MacDonald has about 1,200 jumps under her belt.
Most of the club's members are in the 25 to 45 age range. The people who perform tandem jumps seem to be older, with many walking in the door with the goal of crossing skydiving off of their bucket list.
It's been a tough year financially for the club, with tandem jumps down about 40 per cent. There have been roughly 140 tandems so far this summer, with the club reporting 615 regular jumps. There are 15 students enrolled this year in solo skydiving training.
Skydive South Sask offers two different options for a tandem jump, which is a leap with an experienced instructor. The first option is a 7,500 ft. Jump which costs $270 plus tax. This option will give the participant about 15 to 20 seconds of freefall. The 10,500 ft. option costs $340 plus tax and will give an additional 15 to 20 seconds of freefall time.
There is also a course available for first-time jumpers. The solo Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD) course costs $250 plus tax which includes the first jump. Students will come in for four hours on a Friday and then return the following Saturday for another hour worth of instruction before making their inaugural leap from 3,500 ft. The parachute ride lasts about three to five minutes. The Gradual Freefall (GFF) program is used to progress to a solo certification. The other method is the accelerated Progressive Freefall (PFF) program. Jumps in the PFF program are normally from 10,500 ft.
MacDonald says the club wouldn't be able to run without its volunteers.
"Over the years our costs are going up, fuel's going up, the insurance is going up, plane maintenance is going up. The members we have are all very dedicated to keeping the club alive."
Many of the pilots involved with the skydiving club are recently out of school and are looking to build their hours in a way that is cost-effective.
MacDonald encourages anyone who has thought about skydiving to give them a call.
"Everyone is a little bit scared of heights and everyone is a little scared of the possibility of getting injured," she said. "We're quite experienced here. We know what we're doing. Our gear is regularly checked and it's just worth it. The feelings that you feel, it is worth it to take that leap."
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