Testimonials from SRBA students
Tom Aiello's Snake River BASE Academy is internationally renowned as a provider of high quality BASE-jumping instruction, and for good reason. There are, of course, other providers who offer FJCs and advanced training, so why did I take Tom's course, especially as it was not my first FJC? A number of excellent reasons spring readily to mind: since my interest in BASE first developed and I took those first tentative steps in learning about the sport, Tom was available and willing to provide information and advice, without patronizing or discouraging me in any way. From first jumps to first equipment, Tom's advice has always been measured and practical and has yet to let me down.
My first FJC provided six jumps in six days; Tom's course provided fifteen in four - with variable weather confining jumping to only two days. My first jumps were off a low bridge and a cliff - not ideal student objects. Tom has the huge advantage of the Perrine Bridge, probably the best student object in the world. Tom's course is not a taster course, like my first: Tom's provides a wealth of information and training techniques to enable a new jumper to make considered decisions within the sport. And as each jump is videoed with instructional commentary, the lessons learned are not forgotten in the excitement of the adrenaline-drenched jumping.
My first instructor, a decent man, simply did not combine knowledge, intelligence, affability, enthusiasm, helpfulness and instructional ability in the same way as Tom - a man who has dedicated his working life to BASE. Tom's academy possesses fit-for-purpose premises, abundant gear to enable multiple jumps and rigging equipment to aid equipment knowledge and make modifications. Furthermore, Tom remains available post-course for further queries and advice the new jumper might have.
I had a life-changing time in Twin Falls, an amazing adventure. As I've mentioned, there are other BASE FJCs, but simply none I would recommend more than Tom's, especially if you are going to be a slider-down jumper as opposed to big walls. If you find yourself compelled by the sport, seek professional instruction from a committed professional: call Tom today.
Nick M, South Africa
How do I say this without sounding like just another sales pitch? I traveled from Australia to Twin Falls, Idaho, with the intent to learn how to BASE jump. I took 2 BASE jumping courses to maximise my experience whilst in the USA. I now sit in a good position where I can compare the two.
I’d like to start with a few basic statistics and let them speak for themselves:
Snake River BASE:
4 full days of theory and jumping and sometimes up to 14 hours a day
2-3 hours practicing and perfecting the exit in a harness on climbing rope hung between 2 trees
Thorough packing instruction and a lot pack jobs done
16 jumps total
1 round canopy jump
1 night jump
Other BASE course
2.5 days of course
4 hrs theory
Some packing instruction when asked for
5 jumps total
I completed the Snake River BASE course first; it was thorough and fully directed at learning how to BASE jump and all aspects about the sport. The information provided was unbiased, complete and did not have ulterior motives, i.e. selling you any particular product. We were shown materials that can be purchased and how to construct certain pieces of equipment to avoid buying from manufacturers at exorbitant prices. We were also invited to re-sit in on the other theory course, which was taken advantage of and helped to reinforce knowledge. In actual fact in the 11 days I was in Twin Falls I spent most days with Snake River BASE even while attending the other BASE course.
We were made feel welcome from the start with a BBQ at Tom's place with his family and with the preceding course students, we were also given keys to the training centre and could use it to pack at our pleasure or get what we needed at anytime.
By the time I completed the second BASE course I was so glad I had done the Snake River BASE course first and learnt what I did. Taking into account this is a serious sport with the very real possibility of serious injury or death. I think it is best to fully understand and be aware of what you are getting yourself into in every aspect; therefore I fully recommend the Snake River BASE course as your first steps into BASE jumping. If you’re going to learn to BASE jump then learn to BASE jump with thorough knowledge and without the hype.
Trevor N, Australia
Simply put, there is no smarter and safer way to begin BASE jumping than taking Tom Aeillo's First Jump Class at the Snake River BASE Academy (SRBA). I've spoken to a handful of other jumpers who have taken one of the other FJC's, then later audited Tom's class. Tom's instruction is exponentially more comprehensive in breadth and depth than any in the world. He has a first class packing/rigging loft and classroom area, complete with whiteboard, and large screen for slow-motion video review of all jumps completed in the class.
SRBA has a large number of rigs for student use. This allows students to make multiple jumps in one day without having to repack - in my class we were able to log 7 jumps per day, leaving time for classroom instruction and video review. Jumping multiple rigs also allows students to become familiar with the different canopy and container configurations that are on the market. Tom's class is the only class I am aware of that includes a slider-up jump; it's also the only class that includes a night jump (an excellent idea since we usually jump in low-light conditions in the real world); it's also the only class I know that includes a water (round) jump (weather permitting).
Tom's passion for the sport is unrivaled. He is willing to take as much time as necessary to ensure each and every student leaves his class with the maximum amount of knowledge to safely jump unsupervised. Safety is paramount. None of the other FJC's have instructors with anywhere near Tom's breadth of experience in the sport. Having jumped pretty much every known object, he is an invaluable resource for information regarding viable exit points. His dedication to his students extends well beyond his classes - he helps guide former students toward experience-appropriate jump sites, along with gear selection and gear purchase.
Tom is also a dealer for all the major manufacturers. This means that you can order gear in advance of your class and have it configured and waiting when you arrive. Subject to availability, Tom will send you out a rig in advance of your FJC for packing practice (highly recommended). Additionally, if you order gear through him, he will lend loaner rigs to use until your gear is ready. This allowed me to keep jumping and remain current while awaiting my new rig.
In sum, if you are going to do something as dangerous as BASE jumping, do so with as much preparation and knowledge as you can possibly amass to stack the deck in your favor. There is no better way to do this than to learn at SRBA.
Brian S, USA
Tom’s course was a great way for me to get into BASE and leave Twin Falls with a whole lot of knowledge. The man is super easy going and his sarcastic humor creates a great atmosphere during the course. His FJC covered all you need to know and more for low freefall jumps. During his 4 days FJC course I’ve got to do 14 jumps, test a shitloads of different gear, and got to practice a lot of the skills learned in the classroom. After the course it definitely got a lot easier for me to choose my first gear, and I’m pretty confident and happy with my choice. The course also made it easier for me to hook up with the locals and I’m feeling a lot more secure in my decisions from our local low objects. I’m certain that Tom’s FJC is the way to go for anyone who considering to get into BASE jumping. Thanks Tom for the great first jump experience.
Alex M, Norway
I can't imagine there being a more comprehensive BASE First Jump Course out there. I've been skydiving for 20 years and I was blown away by the amount of BASE-specific technical knowledge presented in this course. The FJC not only comes with a comprehensive reference manual and in-class training but it is PACKED with jumps. On a 4 day course, we managed to squeeze in 15 jumps despite weather-holds and other unforeseen delays. This included a wide variety of jumps from PCA, static line, handheld, stowed and even a water jump on a round! I did a lot of research prior to taking this course and I could not find one that even compared to it. The amount of gear and equipment at our disposal while on course was a huge benefit in that re-packing between jumps was usually not necessary. It also gave us exposure to a wide variety of gear from most manufacturers, which I believe is an invaluable tool when selecting your first set of gear to purchase.
When my new gear finally arrived I signed up for Tom's Object Avoidance Course without thinking twice. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! We spent an entire day doing unpacked jumps such as rollovers, TARDs and TARD overs while working on setting our deep brakes. There was some poor weather while I was there so Tom rearranged his entire schedule (keep in mind he has a family) allowing us to jump all night long, til 5am at times, just so we could finish setting our deep brakes properly. Once he was confident our brakes were set, we progressed to cliff jumps. I can still make my hands sweat just thinking about that first E jump! There were some other pretty special jumps on that trip that I'll never forget but I'll let you experience those for yourselves. All-in-all I couldn't imagine continuing safely in BASE without the skills I learnt on this Object Avoidance Course, especially for low or solid objects. Thanks again Tom to you and your family for all your hospitality. I'll definitely be coming back to jump with you and I highly recommend anyone thinking about getting into BASE, or who just wants to refine/improve their skills, do the same.
Mike C., Canada
In a nutshell I can’t imagine a better, more comprehensive introduction to BASE. Tom was not only extremely knowledgeable but also had a great style of teaching that made every part of the course - from the classroom to the jumping – enjoyable over the 4 days very full days (big bang for the buck factor). The way we were prepared for our first jump off the bridge – from practicing exits on the pendulator until we had the technique down, to doing practice climb outs on the side of the bridge on level ground – made all the difference. We each had a number of rigs (containers and canopies from different manufacturers – great introduction to the different gear out there) and were able to complete a number of jumps back to back and then pack the rigs back to back which greatly helped the learning process. Even a few weeks after the course Tom took the time over the phone to answer a myriad of questions about gear selection.
I highly recommend taking Tom’s course to get your BASE feet wet. I’ll definitely be back to take more.
Kristian S, USA
There’s a lot to say about Tom Aiello and Snake River BASE Academy. When we first started looking for a FJC we were in between Tom and a couple of guys that were willing to teach us, but after some research we chose Tom’s course, and personally that’s the best choice we made so far in our short life in BASE.
You will learn everything that you can possibly learn for a safe jump (let alone your physical and mind skills).
He’ll teach you everything from weather to rigging (you’ll learn how to make a TailGate and your own Static line that leaves no trace you were there), he will have a proper answer to every question you ask, as some guy told us when we asked him about Tom Aiello, and I quote: “He is an Enciclopedia of BASE”….and he is…at some point we started calling him “Wiki-Tom”, I had so many questions that I thought he was going to kick me out of the classroom but he’s extremely patient and will cover every doubt you have.
At first I thought I’ll never learn how to pack but in the 2nd day of the course we were already jumping our packjobs, he’ll make you practice Exits from a pooley with a harness he sets up.
You’ll get more than you payed for, I didn’t think there was that much information to learn about BASE jumping, but now I know that even the smallest difference in how the PC was made can influence so much in your opening heading, now every time I get my hands on a PC, first thing I do is check the symmetry of it.
You’ll get to try all 3 kinds of containers (Velcro, 1 and 2 pins) so if you’re planning to get a rig after the course you’ll know what to get, same as with PC’s and canopies.
We made Slider Down, Slider Up, Hand Held, PCA, Static Line, Night Jumps, Jumps into the wáter with a Round Parachute, after a week in Twin Falls we made 30 jumps each, and there was a couple of days with bad weather so if you are thinking about where to take your FJC, we strongly recommend to send Tom an email. We don’t know how’s every other FJC taught, but we’re sure this is one of the best there are, if not THE best, and I don’t Think you’ll get to make +30 jumps in a week with any other course because after the course is ended, he’ll lend you a Rig for you to jump as much as you can.
And I can keep going talking about this FJC but make your own conclusions, you’ll never regret to have a mentor like him.
We hope one day we can go back to Twin Falls and take the Advanced Course.
Roxy and Ale, Uruguay and Argentina
I took the BASE FJC from Tom in 2012.
As an accomplished skydiver, coach and instructor, I found Tom's course to be quite exhaustive. The sheer amount of knowledge amassed was amazing. Tom's vast technical experience in the sport is apparent.
After taking the course, I feel I am ready to make the right kinds of decisions based on facts and experience in my future BASE jumps. The FJC far exceeded my expectations.
Alain B, Canada
"After taking Toms FJC and object avoidance course I felt I had a strong introduction into BASE fundamentals and had the understanding to know what questions to ask and where to go from there. The balance between classroom and jumping is really beneficial and allows you to practice what has been talked about, including a video debrief afterwards. Tom presents various methods and techniques with the pros and cons of each, giving you the information to make an informed decision on your own. It is clear that he is dedicated to the sport."
Joe E., USA
I took a course with the Snake River Base Academy, after already having completed a FJC elsewhere, I had 21 jumps before I arrived, and I left with 54. I took the FJC and additional Object Avoidance course (I also took an object evaluation course but due to weather and an injury I didn't jump so will limit this review to the the first two courses.)
Day 1 started with ground school, covering risks, PC information – I honestly had no idea there was so much to learn about pilot chutes - LRT (line release toggle) systems, exit theory and post opening priorities. The lectures were in depth, informative and easy to follow. We also covered packing, I already had a packing method I was happy with and initially I was quite hesitant to change that, especially to something that seemed like more hassle, though eventually I did give Tom's method a go and have definitely taken a few bits and pieces from it.
After packing, we took the ropes and harnesses out to rig up a pendulator to practice exits, the pendulator was pretty basic, just a rope strung between two trees and a body harness + pulley. Climb a ladder, exit from the tree, get lowered to the ground, repeat as required – good way to get loads of exits in, in a very short space of time. If it hadn't been -20C it would probably have been quite fun!
Days 2, 3 and 4 were a mix of lots of jumping and then back to the school for lectures, on the first day jumping I did 4 before lunch, then an afternoons lectures and then back for a sunset jump – the timings of the jumps and lectures differed depending on the weather but I easily got 5 jumps a day. We covered all types of jumps, PCA, SL, handheld, stowed and even slider up (1s delay, felt like the snivel was never going to end!) All the jumps were off the bridge and I got the chance to jump numerous different types of canopy and container, velcro, 1 pin and 2 pin – being able to jump and pack such a wide range of gear was fantastic. Before each different type of jump we had a lecture on the techniques, safety points and hazards of that specific deployment method, and we also had morning/evening lectures on subjects like wind, turbulence, and ethics. Each and every one of the jumps was recorded on a handheld HD camcorder, during the jump Tom gives commentary on your performance and any suggestions for improvements etc. I found this to be a really useful tool when looking back over the videos, and also helps with the debriefs which we had after every session of jumping.
Between the FJC and OA course we had a days rest – time to reflect on what we'd learned.
The OA course started with a talk on the why's of finding and setting custom deep brake settings, the first jump was a PCA and after each jump the settings were adjusted, tailgate reset and lines stowed for unpacked jumps (smart TARD/TARDover's) I did 5 unpacked jumps to get the brakes to the right setting, then back to the school to install and bartack the new settings into place, this involved a reline of the lower brake lines and instalment of 3 settings.
The next day we went to the local pool to practice running exits off the diving board before going out and setting up a platform at the bridge to do running exits from – it was great to be able to practice at the bridge as it took all of us on the course a few jumps to exit straight and not in a slight turn.
Over the next couple of days we did some floaters with correction to simulate a 180 opening facing an object, the idea was to turn the canopy before it flew under the bridge – the winds were not kind to us so this was not easy, but it was good practice nonetheless. We also packed a 180 and jumped it to experience what it feels like to have a 'real' 180, again trying to correct the off heading before flying under the bridge.
Once we were all pretty solid with correcting an off heading we set off for a local cliff and jumped – thankfully not having to put any of what we'd been learning at the bridge into practice in so far as heading corrections were concerned!
All in all I have to say that my time spent with Tom was incredible, I was much more interested in the theory than 'how many jumps can I smash out at the bridge' and I was not disappointed, I came away from these courses really feeling like I had a grasp on the basics, and an understanding of the underlying principles that can make or break a jump (or jumper) I could have got more jumps, I turned down a number of jumps because I didn't feel quite there, and I'm happy to say that I never felt pressured in any way to do anything I wasn't 100% comfortable with.
Tom has a great passion for teaching, and this is clear in his teaching style and methods, as well as in the way he welcomes students into his life for the short time they are visiting. You could do a lot worse than taking the SRBA FJC – in fact I'd go so far as to say I believe you'd be hard pressed to do better. Though if money were no object it would be very interesting to take a number of other FJC's to see what they are like. At the moment I feel like I have experienced both ends of the spectrum.
Vikki S, UK
When looking for a FJC, I was recommended to Snake River BASE from a few of my friends. After a few emails arranging exactly what I wanted to learn, I booked the course. I couldn't be any happier with my choice. Tom ran a really tight course. I was especially happy with Tom's extent of knowledge and his reasoning for the use of particular techniques and skills in different situations.
Tom did a really good job of explaining many aspects of the sport so that I would be in a good position to make important decisions further down the track in my jumping future.
I was very happy with the teaching time I received, the facilities of the training centre and the ongoing support and guidance I have received. A huge thanks goes out to Tom!
Duncan M, Australia
I conducted a thorough investigation of those providing the First Jump Course (FJC) before selecting Tom Aiello's Snake River BASE Academy for my FJC and, based upon what others tell me about their FJCs, Tom Aiello's course is more comprehensive and less expensive than any of the other professional FJCs. Tom's knowledge, experience and skill in BASE jumping and training BASE jumpers with a comprehensive, well organized, methodical approach to BASE both in the classroom and the field is unsurpassed, and that is the reason following my FJC I have gone back again and again for coaching with Tom.
Jim H, USA
Tom sent me a message on basejumper.com when I showed interest in BASE. Tom taught me everything I needed to know about BASE for a beginner. Above all, he taught me the ethics of BASE. Tom's ethics and teachings will keep BASE alive and well for many years to come. If I would have done another course, I don't think I could have made a BASE jump in Japan successfully as a beginner or kept it so secret. Tom makes Twin Falls feel like home.
Adam B, Japan
Tom's Snake River Base FJC is comprehensive, thorough and very professional.
Tom is a BASE encyclopaedia and a fantastic teacher.
After taking his FJC and Object Avoidance Course, I was confident to pack for, assess and safely jump most Australian jumps.
And I had the time of my life.
Nathan B, Australia
Having just completed two FJC with two separate companies, Toms course was intensive, well planned and delivered and extremely comprehensive. The other course I would compare to a "Tandem" jump at my local dz, a fun experience, a tick in the box, got the T shirt but not really enough to make me feel ready to go and join my local crew.
Tom's course ran over 4 days, sometimes starting at 4am and finishing when we begged to get some sleep. I am a bit older than your average young jumper and we found Tom catered for our age and also our experience levels.
At times confronting, writing a letter to your family in the event of my demise was thought provoking and made me question my motives for wanting to join the BASE community.
I have been a professional instructor for mountaineering and skydiving for many years and was impressed with Tom's professionalism, passion and knowledge, and with his ability to deliver all this at the right level and at the right time, I can only recommend Tom and Snake River BASE wholeheartedly to anybody wanting a thorough grounding in the basics af BASE.
Derek M, Australia