At our last look, there are now just under 1,300 skydiving dropzones scattered across the globe. That, dear friends, is a huge variety of choices! Unfortunately, quite a few of those are–to put it mildly–not great. And that makes us kinda sad because skydiving as a sport deserves better.
The odds also make it something of a challenge to choose a solid dropzone to go to make that first tandem skydive. When you don’t know what to look for, you’re much more vulnerable to the not-so-great (and downright sketchy) offerings. We put this together to help you choose, no matter where you happen to be because we care about your jump!
This is step one, stop one, item one. If the dropzone you’re looking at isn’t a USPA member dropzone, you should stop right there and move on. The USPA is the United States Parachute Association. It’s an organization that provides a set of standards of safety, professionalism, equipment and training. USPA membership is truly the entry-level requirement in your search, as USPA Member DZ’s are required to follow its safety requirements.
There’s a dirty secret about tandem skydiving pricing: that they’re priced kinda like eggs (bear with us on this). Y’know how you can buy a huge tray of sad-looking battery eggs from factory farms for cheap–but, when you get them home, the yolks are all practically white, the shells are so thin that any bump will crush ‘em and they barely have a recognizable taste? Compare those to fresh eggs from a family farm just out of town. The eggs in the basket all have a sense of inherent individuality; the shells are tough and feel substantial in the hand; the yolks are crayon-box orange; the taste comes through with gusto. They’re a little more to buy, but you’re proud as punch to serve anything you make with them–and you wake up stoked for breakfast.
Proportionally small differences in tandem skydive prices tell you if you’re getting a good egg or a bad egg. Lots of places lowball that price as far as they can to get you in. Sure, you’ll skydive and land–just like you can make an omelet with a couple of caged hen eggs–but the experience is not what it should be. Beware the hustlers who treat their customers like numbers; that’s the foundation of their low-price model: turn and burn.
If you’re calling around, be sure to ask about exit altitude or find it on the website. Every skydiver loves altitude, and for good reason: the higher you go, the more freefall you get, and the more fun you have!
The kind of beast you’re going up in is worth noting, especially if you’re jumping with friends. There are several types of skydiving aircraft used in the industry, but there’s one that stands out amongst them all: the Twin Otter. It’s the gold standard for comfort, spaciousness, and speed. (Note: We have one at Skydive Orange, and we love it.)
As in all things, years of experience goes a long way. This is especially true in skydiving, so reputable dropzones will be stoked to tell you all about their long histories. Many great dropzones have stories that stretch back to the origins of the sport. We, for instance, have been in continuous operation by passionate sport skydivers since 1977. Asking about the history will quickly “out” fly-by-night Groupon operations, so do your sleuthing.
We’d love to invite you to be part of our ever-evolving history. Come and make a jump with us–one of the most trusted and established club-operated skydiving centers in the country!–and you’ll be able to tell your friends how different a skydive can be when you jump with the best.
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.