French, Germans and Swiss are paragliding enthusiasts. In this adventure vacation paradise, paragliding is huge. Many weekends (in summer and winter) we see paragliders soaring over valleys… from the (relative) safety of a mountain.
When we were skiing in Chamonix, we saw paragliders jump off the mountain! They soared over the valley next to Mont Blanc. We watched them from the cable car all the way down into town. Someone even landed down there wearing skis! It was impressive (sorry I couldn’t get a picture).
Paragliding involves a manual launch, in other words, you run off the mountain! Paragliders have “flown” off almost all the US and Europe’s major peaks. A couple of paragliders have even launched off Mt. Everest!
The paraglider, also known as the pilot, sits in a harness, manipulating the fabric wing made of rip-stop nylon to soar upwards on currents of air. They maneuver Kevlar suspension lines and to control the pressure of the air entering the vents to catch air currents to gain height and change direction. They can stay aloft for hours (the record is 11) and travel long distances (the record is 186.4 miles/300 km).
We saw an introductory, tandem launch. Beginners must learn to launching, turning and landing to fly by themselves. Paragliders risk their lives by running off a precipice. As such, pre-flight is of paramount importance. They research the site, the weather forecast, and carry out pre-flight checks to their gear is in perfect condition and ready to deploy. The maxim “it is better to be on the ground, wishing you were in the air rather than in the air, wishing you were on the ground” reminds paragliders to abort takeoff if their flight is compromised.
Other popular paragliding spots include:
- Annecy, France
- Interlaken, Switzerland
- Magève, France
- La Clusaz, France
- Grindelwald, Switzerland
- Montreux, Switzerland
- Les Diablerets, Switzerland
- Verbier, Switzerland