Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Blue Skies, Baby!

By Allison Lince-Bentley

AUGUST 31, 1998:  At Z-Hills/Skydive City in Zephyrhills, Florida, tandem jumps run about $155 on weekdays and $165 weekends. They also offer a seven-level accelerated free fall (AFF) course, priced at $1,100, which is especially useful if you're interested in pursuing skydiving as an ongoing hobby. It's possible to work through all seven levels of the course in as little as three days, at which point you can start your solo diving career. Skydive City has an excellent Web site worth checking out for anyone who's interested in the sport, with lots of good information for first- time jumpers, great photos, and a complete price list for all of their offered programs. 800/404- 9399, http://www.skydivecity.com/

We recognize that it may be difficult to justify a trip all the way out to Zephyr- Hills when you can get the same hard- core extreme- sport gloss right here in Texas. Here are a few diving outlets a little closer to home. Zip on a neon flightsuit and have at 'em.

The Austin Skydiving Center, located 40 minutes east of Austin in Lexington, Texas boasts the newest, cleanest state- of- the- art equipment. The center is affiliated with Skydive University and certified by the US Parachute Association, perhaps making some feel more secure about leaping off a plane into oblivion. Either way, their aircraft fly up to 14,000 feet for longer free fall time. Jumps range from $150- 250. Reservations welcome. 409/773- 9100, http://austinskydiving.com/

Skydive Temple considers itself a "small, family drop zone." It doesn't have the biggest planes or the fanciest equipment, but it claims to be one of the friendliest places around. Their private airstrip is located about 45 minutes north of Austin, where they offer the standard AFF and tandem curricula. AFF courses begin at 8am Saturday mornings, and tandem classes and jumps take place all day Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. 254/947- 3483.

Skydive San Marcos, home to Austin Skydivers, has a convenient, simple, straightforward way to throw your life into the wind. After a quick 30-minute training session they'll take you up close to 10,000 feet and toss you out with an instructor strapped to your back for only $135. Whether you want one jump or many, Skydive San Marcos can accommodate. Follow- up courses are just $100 a piece. Open Saturday and Sunday, 9am to sunset; Wednesday through Friday, 2pm to sunset. 512/488- 2457, http://www.montaldo.com/


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