The first thing I notice is the beautiful view. It’s easier to see the Rocky Mountains over the rooftops of Westminster’s houses from two stories above the ground. It’s only when I look down from the towering steel platform I’m standing on that I begin to question my decisions. I’m about to “fly”—as they say in trapeze parlance—for the first time. And for my first act, my trapeze school instructors have given me some impossible-sounding tasks. Drop in. Bring my feet up and over the bar. Hang down from my knees, like I used to as a kid on the monkey bars. Except this time, I’ll be suspended 22 feet in the air, swinging like a pendulum at who-knows-what-speed. Before I take the plunge, I only have one reassuring thought: At least I’m wearing a harness.

“Go!” an instructor yells.

A short bunny hop off the ledge and I’m being sucked by gravity toward a net. Panic. But within seconds, the suspended bar I’m gripping is catapulting me back skyward. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, and before I know it, I’m getting verbal instructions from below. Somehow, I respond—clumsily—to the coach’s commands. Muscle my legs up. Hook onto the bar. Hang upside down by my knees. Grab the bar again. Now, it’s time to drop into the net. Exhale.

“Nice job,” one of two coaching assistants tells me. “But next time, you can breathe a little.”

So began my two-hour beginner’s class at Colorado’s only flying trapeze school, Fly Mile High. Since officially opening on June 3 on a grassy lawn outside of Westminster’s Irving Street Library (near 74th Avenue and Federal Boulevard), the new outdoor trapeze rig—a giant apparatus of high cross beams, nets, and rope pulleys anchored to the ground by a spiderweb of cables—has been hosting classes for all levels of aspiring flyers, along with kid’s summer camps, birthday parties, corporate team-building events, and more.

The new aerial playground is the brainchild of Michael Roudebush, 32, who grew up in Belgium and has been soaring through the air since he was eight years old. One summer, his family was vacationing in Italy at one of the all-inclusive hotels run by Club Med, and the resort had a flying trapeze rig. Roudebush was hooked. He kept up the hobby, even while getting a master’s degree in business from Queen’s University in Canada, but the sport didn’t become his focus until 2015, when he faced the question every graduate eventually has to contend with: What’s next?

Writer Chris Walker tries flying for the first time. Photo by Madi Skahill

“I really didn’t want to start the 9-to-5 job situation,” Roudebush says. “So I moved to Orlando and connected with some flying trapeze professionals from a Cirque du Soleil show down there.”

In other words, he ran away and joined the circus.

“Just being surrounded by the pros of the pros, I got exponentially stronger, and my skills developed quickly,” he says.

Flying high with new industry connections, Roudebush traveled around Europe to teach trapeze and perform shows with various professional troupes and helped Cirque du Soleil set up a circus village in the Dominican Republic. He globe-trotted for years. But life, skiing, and friends ultimately led him and his partner to the mountains of Colorado.

“We have a lot of friends here, and we just wanted to settle down,” Roudebush says. “The only thing missing [in Colorado] was a flying trapeze school.”

That’s when the business major recognized an opportunity. Colorado was already home to a robust aerialist community, not to mention adrenaline-seeking athletes who might’ve been looking to expand their repertoires of sports beyond climbing, skiing, and mountain biking; and Roudebush knew that most large metro areas in the United States have at least one trapeze rig. So why didn’t Denver?

For a state crawling with adventure enthusiasts always looking for new harrowing pursuits, the sport seemed like a no-brainer. Roudebush knew of other schools around the country that had opened through partnerships with local governments, as part of initiatives to draw residents to recreation centers and other city amenities. Using that model, Roudebush pitched every municipality around the Denver metro area that he could think of. Only one responded: Westminster.

“But it only takes one,” Roudebush says. “Westminster has been looking to activate the Irving Street Library—and to bring some positivity to the surrounding park—and they’ve used [the trapeze school] as an effort to revitalize and bring more people to the area.”

Since partnering with the city of Westminster and opening in June, Fly Mile High has taught more than 500 kids through various summer camp programs and expanded to offer classes five days a week for Coloradans of all ages and skill levels. “It’s been super thrilling,” he says. “We’ll even stop traffic. All of a sudden, people are driving and they’re like, What the heck is going on up there? It’s usually the moment where we’re catching people [mid-air]. And drivers will straight-up pull over and take their phones out to film us.”

The uninitiated are fascinated to see the types of aerial feats usually reserved for circus tents and Hollywood movies. But for those who take Fly Mile High’s courses, the focus is just as much on supporting each other and fostering camaraderie as it is on the lofty stunts.

That community is on display at the Friday morning class I attend. After my rather stiff, and I think embarrassing, first attempt on the trapeze bar, the more experienced students in the class only give encouragement. That positive atmosphere, I learn, is part of what draws Summit County flyer Susan Lund, who regularly drives I-70 to the Front Range just to take Roudebush’s classes.

Susan Lund, 72, reaches for the bar at Fly Mile High. Photo by Madi Skahill

The 72-year-old jumps from the platform with no hesitation and contorts her body while swinging through the air, practicing for a handoff with another trapeze flyer. It’s graceful, and Lund confirms afterward that she’s not a beginner. “I’ve flown at some other rigs previously,” she says. “And I definitely feel like it’s a great vibe here. It’s supportive, it’s encouraging, and the coaching is good. It doesn’t feel like there’s any pressure around failing or making a fool of yourself.”

Lund has even encouraged a friend to accompany her on the trek to Westminster to try flying. “One of the things that’s important to me is to be able to show people that you’re not too old to do this,” she says. “Most people don’t start their careers in their seventies, but I’m hoping to be able to do this for a long time.”

Roudebush hopes Fly Mile High will last a long time, too. This year, he’s planning to continue offering classes through October, weather permitting. And in the future, he’s hoping to find an indoor space to make the trapeze school a year-round operation. After all, some of his students are already treating flying as their new workout—especially former gymnasts, cheerleaders, and other athletes who have come to class looking for new ways to challenge themselves.

“They’re some of the ones saying, I’m tired of the gym, and I’m tired of lifting weights,” he says. “They can come here instead and find that inner child, superhero feeling. They can find the thrill they were missing.”

At the end of the two-hour class, it’s time for my biggest challenge: a mid-air handoff to another instructor, Al Firstenberg, who will catch me while swinging upside down from another bar at the opposite end of the rig. The first time I attempt the feat, I narrowly miss the instructors’ hands. But the second time?

“Got ya!” Firstenberg yells upon grabbing my wrists.

After I hit the net and descend a ladder to the ground, it’s not just the residual euphoria of briefly defying gravity that makes me eager to go again, it’s the chorus of kudos and round of high-fives from fellow flyers.

As Roudebush puts it: “This is just a good way to put yourself out there, push yourself, and be proud of what you accomplished.”

Fly Mile High offers multiple two-hour classes each week for flyers of all skill levels. A single class costs $75, but discounted multi-packs are available, as are private bookings for birthday parties (for adults and/or kids) and corporate team-building events. For more information, visit

Chris Walker
Chris Walker
Chris writes for various sections of 5280 as well as