You don’t have to take a course in skydiving to experience parachuting. Most skydiving centers worldwide offer tandem jumps, where first timers leap from a plane while harnessed to a skydiving professional. “It is the most accessible adventure I know of, that anyone can do," says Dean Potter. “It’s one of the original extreme sports and is highly regulated, very safe, and controlled.”
For the most visually stunning tandem skydiving experience, Potter recommends Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. The name “Lauterbrunnen” means “many fountains,” referring to the 72 waterfalls spread throughout the scenic valley. A family-run operation called Skydive Xdream pilots a state-of-the-art, high-altitude helicopter past some of the most recognizable peaks in the western Swiss Alps, including Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger. The tandem jump happens at about 12,000 feet above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. “It’s a completely new realm,” says Potter. “I recommend for everyone to experience human-body flight for real, instead of just in the dream world.”
Rock Climber/BASE Jumper
Rock climber Dean Potter has spent more than 20 years ascending noteworthy big walls—without ropes—and is one of the pioneers of both slacklining and BASE jumping. In 2008, he invented free BASE, a form of free solo climbing that uses a parachute for protection. In 2012, he flew the longest, most technical BASE jump to date off of Switzerland's Eiger, descending 9,265 vertical feet and traveling 26,247 feet forward. He stayed aloft for more than 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Read his Adventurers of the Year profile.
Dean Potter's Gear Pick: Therm-a-Rest
“The most important piece of gear for me on any adventure is a Therm-a-Rest air mattress. Getting a good night's sleep is essential for performing well in any outdoor pursuit—and not to mention just plain good sense. I prefer the largest, most comfortable model—the DreamTime. But if I have to go light, I slip the svelte NeoAir Therm-a-Rest into my backpack.”