I am delighted to bring you this story of paragliding in France kindly provided by Greg Kelly who is a paragliding instuctor from the United States. If you are in France this year and are into paragliding or hang gliding he has certainly found one of the best places to practice the art.
We are in Annecy, France, a world-class paragliding and hang gliding center.
After I get the word of where the paragliders launch, my partner and I drive the quaint back roads around the farms, lush fields of alfalfa and crops and the occasional raging horned bull guarding a field, to our starting point. I will be flying tandem today with my travel partner Karen, who has flown with me before.
There had to be as many as 30 pilots laying their gliders out and getting ready for their flight of the day. Conditions were perfect. Light wind cycles blowing up the face at a perfect launch speed of 10 miles per hour. Three hundred yards in front of launch, paragliders were climbing and gaining altitude in perfect thermals, several hundred to a thousand feet above where they started. Talk about a fairy tale flying area.
Karen and I began our pre-flight preparation. In Europe, you want to be prepared with harnesses on, glider checked, lines cleared and basically hooked into your glider when ready to go. Once the glider is laid out you must be ready to take off when a favorable wind cycle comes, or you risk being yelled at or run over by other pilots taking off behind you. No messing around here.
Finally the flags begin to wave, maybe about five to six miles per hour. Three, two, one, GO. We begin to run, and as the glider inflates, I am particularly happy that all looks great. Running into the air we gently fly away from the launch pad, and into the house thermal where about 15 paragliders are circling.
We begin to circle with the other paraglider pilots, and with the right-of-way rules, we should all be circling in the same direction. Unfortunately, half are circling to the left and the other half to the right. Based on what height each cluster of pilots is circling I then have to vary my circle direction as I begin to climb through the “gaggle.” Five left turns, two right, now left, right. Give me a break. I finally top above the group and can relax and circle at my own speed.
When flying at different sites, sometimes you don’t know the development or skill level of the other pilots flying. Some may have 30 flights, while others may have thousands of hours under their belt. So there could be a plethora of antics out there to keep you on your toes, but generally there is more organization than chaos, and you can relax and enjoy the sensations and amazing views.
Pilots share a passion for this sport like none other, and all believe the quote from Leonardo Da Vinci: “For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will long to return.”
The environment is saturated with excitement and adventure just waiting for you to experience.
Annecy is due east of Lyon, c. one hour by car and only about 40 minutes due south of Geneva.