Paragliding in Les 2 Alpes

two paragliders in air

If you’ve never tried paragliding before (or maybe you’re not entirely sure what it is) then Les 2 Alpes is a great place to learn how to fly.

Known as “parapenting” in France, today there are a number of clubs and organisations in the area whose sole purpose is to get you flying. So, if it is something that you have always fancied trying then Les 2 Alpes is a great place to give it a go.

Jump to:

  1. The science
  2. Who can paraglide & what to wear
  3. Tandem paragliding
  4. Solo paragliding
  5. Take-off areas
  6. Landing areas
  7. Paragliding equipment
  8. Who to paraglide with

The science

Often described as the “purest and simplest form of aviation”, stemming from man’s long term ambition to be able to fly, others simply call it “a pure joy”. Paragliders were originally developed from parachuting canopies, although it soon became apparent that the two required very different design criteria. Whilst a parachute has to withstand the incredible stresses of opening in free-fall and enable the pilot to descend at a fairly rapid rate; a paraglider is fully inflated before take-off, launched from the ground and requires a good gliding performance and a slow rate of descent. Paragliders began to take on more of the design features of the hang glider with a high-lift aerofoil shape and long slender wings. It is currently one of the fastest growing air sports in the world with much of its attraction being in the portability of the equipment; a canopy that weighs relatively little, fits in a large rucksack and can be taken all over the world.

Now for the science bit. When a paraglider is fully inflated it forms a solid “wing” which creates lift in the same way as that of a conventional aircraft. It must create enough lift to carry its own weight and that of the pilot and any passengers, and it achieves this with “gliding flight”. This means that the wing is constantly flying forwards and downwards through the air and in doing so provides a flow over the aerofoil section.

The pilot controls the wing with a series of suspension lines that are thin, but very strong, in order to minimise drag and weight. These lines converge into risers (usually 25mm webbing straps) that are attached to the harness and spread the weight load evenly over the wing. They also provide the pilot with a convenient single point to hold when launching, and channel the control lines down to the pilots’ hands so that he/she can steer. The controls are the equivalent of the brakes and steering wheel of a car and so by turning left and right and into and out of the wind or thermals, the pilot is able to speed up, slow down and gain or lose height. Modern paragliders are made out of super lightweight nylon meaning they can soar effortlessly through the air for hours on end in the right conditions.

What

Who can paraglide & what to wear

Pretty much anyone can paraglide, from little nippers to your granny as long as they can run approximately 10 metres for the take off. Flying itself does not require much physical effort (especially if you’re the passenger), hence why people of all ages and occupations can experience the delights of soaring above the mountain tops with only the birds for company. The main take off areas can be accessed by one of the chairlifts, and from the top it is usually just a short walk to the take off area.

Flights can be undertaken solo (but only with prior training from a qualified instructor) or in tandem with a qualified paragliding pilot, therefore opening up the experience to pretty much anyone. Pilots (and their passengers) wear a comfortable “seated” harness that is securely attached to the paraglider (and also to each other, with the pilot behind in the case of tandem flights). The paraglider itself is laid out flat on the ground of the take-off area and the pilot then fully inflates the wing by moving forward when a gentle gust of wind blows. Once inflated, both pilot and passenger run forward a few steps on a downward incline and, with a little manoeuvre from the pilot, you’re airborne.

From a height you will glide down to your destination on a tandem paraglider controlled by the instructor. They manoeuvre the parachute while the passenger enjoys the ride and fantastic views. Taking off is the only slightly scary moment; once you have been equipped with a helmet, and strapped to the instructor behind you, both of you simply run downhill getting faster and faster until the parachute lifts you into the air.

No particular level of fitness is required, just the ability to sit back and enjoy the view. You then peacefully glide above the beautiful landscape below for 10 to 20 minutes, aiming to catch thermals to keep you up for longer. Landing is very gentle and no more of an impact than jumping off a step. Top tip: go on a sunny, warm day when the thermals will keep your airborne for longer.

Clothing is an important factor when flying so you want to wear something that offers a degree of protection from sun/wind/cold etc, even if the weather is hot. Long trousers, a wind proof top, sunglasses and sun cream are essentials, as are good sturdy footwear such as walking boots (with ankle support), which will reduce the chance of slipping on take off or landing.

About Les Deux Alpes Summer Lift Pass Prices

Tandem paragliding

Whether paragliding is a sport that you are thinking of taking up and want to know if you’re going to like it; or if you simply want to experience the truly wonderful feeling of flying amongst Les 2 Alpes’s breathtaking scenery – a tandem flight is the perfect introduction.

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When booking a tandem flight, it is best to do so a day or two in advance and try and allow yourself some leeway in case of bad weather. It is not possible to fly in poor weather conditions so if your flight is cancelled for this reason, every effort would be made to reschedule it for the next mutually convenient time. It would be a terrible shame to miss out on the experience because you left it until your last day. The actual timing of your flight will be influenced to a certain extent by your age and size, but only in so much as it is better for children or petite adults to fly earlier in the day when the wind is not as strong. Certain take-off sites are also better at particular times of the day when known weather patterns will be present.

Once you’ve reached the take off area, the whole process will be clearly and calmly explained and a number of safety checks are carried out before the off. There is no rush at all and sometimes the services of a professional photographer are available at the top to record your big moment. The take off is progressive with no feeling of dropping; it is much more a gentle lift up and away from the ground. Once in the air, very few people feel afraid of the exposure (even vertigo sufferers) as the harness is seated and comfortable and it can feel rather like sitting on a plane (albeit with the windows open!) rather than being on the edge of a cliff.

As the passenger, you can choose how you want to fly, usually moving around the mountain to get different views and perspectives instead of circling over the one spot. Don’t forget your camera. Ensure that it has a strap on it so that it can be securely attached to the harness leaving you free to snap away and not worry about dropping it should you fancy taking the controls yourself for a while. The landing is also a gradual affair due to the excellent manoeuvrability of the wing; you may need to run a few steps but it is usually gentle and certainly less dramatic than a parachute landing. Friends and family can wait for you at the landing area (or see you off at the top if you prefer) and you have time to relax and talk to your pilot once back on terra firma.

The whole activity normally takes about an hour with the flight itself lasting about 20 minutes. Sometimes, it is possible for a group of you to fly at the same time so you can normally take photos of each other in the air as the pilots will endeavour to fly you close to one another. Tandem flights are possible any day of the year, weather permitting, and that includes the winter. Flying in winter is actually no colder than skiing and in fact conditions are often more stable in the winter months making it an ideal time to take to the air. The launch is generally done on foot although it can be possible to take off on skis by special request and therefore miss the end of day rush to get off the mountain. All flight schools have strict safety standards to meet and equipment must be checked and maintained regularly. It takes many, many hours of flying to qualify as a tandem pilot so you can rest assured that you will be in highly qualified hands.

Summer Paragliding, Alpe d

Solo paragliding

If flying tandem was not enough for you and you have decided that “going solo” is the only way fly, then you should book yourself onto a beginners course. Regardless of what some reckless souls may say, the only safe way to learn to fly is to be trained by a qualified instructor.

The official regulatory body in the UK is the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA). They have a list of all the registered flight schools in the UK that offer tuition for all levels of pilot. However, what could be nicer than learning to fly in Les 2 Alpes? If fatigue or frustration begins to get the better of you then you only have to glance skywards to be reminded what it’s all about.

The French training is split into three separate weeks: the Initiation course, then the Perf 1 and Perf 2 courses. These can be taken individually or back to back, but they don’t have to completed all in the same year. A number of schools in the area offer five day Learn to Fly courses from June to October. During the five days you will become familiar with your equipment, learn to master the control of your wing on the ground and make your first solo take-offs from the gentle nursery slopes. The remainder of the course is spent building your skills and confidence with a number of smaller flights and then culminating in long flights from the mid-mountain take-off zones whilst in full radio contact with your flight instructor. These courses are interactive affairs where you are encouraged to ask questions and the instructors will test you on topics covered – after all, your safety depends on it. In order to make the most of these courses, you should be in reasonable physical shape beforehand as you will be walking and running up and down the nursery slopes several times while you get the hang of it.

If you have already completed a basic level course (here or elsewhere), then further tuition is available (and necessary) in order to hone and improve your skills in the sky. Improver courses or specialist training in flying thermals, cross-country and even tips on competitive flying are available. You will be asked for proof of previous flying experience (FFVL niveau vert / BHPA Elementary or Club Pilot or equivalent) before being accepted onto these more advances courses.

If you are already an experienced pilot then you will have an absolute field day flying in Les 2 Alpes. However, before setting out to fly in completely unfamiliar territory it is always worth seeking advice from your fellow flying club members or from local pilots when you arrive. The more you know about the site and the region, the safer and more enjoyable your flying will be. Don’t rush to be the first to launch; sit and watch what the local pilots are doing as their actions will give you a good indication of prevailing conditions and thermal activity, in addition to your own assessment of the area. Always carry your flying licence or membership card with you and ensure that your medical insurance covers you sufficiently for flying abroad, including third party liability cover.

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Summer Paragliding, Alpe d

Take-off areas

Nearly all flying sites in France are open to the public although they may be controlled by one of the local flying schools or clubs, in conjunction with the governing body. You may find these schools and their tandem pilots have priority at the launch areas. Some sites, for various reasons may well be closed during parts of the year (especially in the nature reserves when animals have young) so it is important to respect these closure periods.

All the official paragliding sites have notice boards placed at both the launch and landing areas, giving information of school or club address and phone numbers, rescue services phone number or radio frequencies. These notice boards describe launch directions and landing approaches, flying restrictions, wind and thermal turbulence problems if any, areas that may be dangerous to fly near, and so on. Again this information tends to be in French but English translations are becoming more and more common. Keep your pocket dictionary handy just in case!

Air 2 Alpes Parapente, Les 2 Alpes paragliding

Landing areas

It is imperative that you only land on official sites as not doing so can cause conflict with local landowners. Landing areas get lost as a result of the impolite and disrespectful attitudes of a few pilots. If you do encounter problems and are forced to make an emergency landing somewhere, always be polite and apologetic and offer to pay for any damage caused to the landowners’ property or crops if necessary (your third party liability covers you for such eventualities).

Delta Evasion, paragliding

Paragliding equipment

If you’re thinking of travelling here with your own paraglider it’s worth doing bit of research into the baggage policies of a couple of airlines for the latest prices and conditions

Tandem Paragliding, Les Arcs

Who to paraglide with

There are a number of activity companies and flying schools in Les 2 Alpes. Click on the link below to find their details.

A Survivor’s Guide to Paragliding in the Alps!

After doing a tandem paraglide flight in Alpe d’Huez back in 2015, I became completely hooked on the sport. Now, I see it as one of the top activities to do in the Alps and the best thing about it is that paragliding can be enjoyed both in winter and summer. From a nervous flyer’s perspective, read on to find out how to survive your first paraglide flight in the Alps.

1. What you can expect

Video Credit: Les Gets Tourisme

When skiing in the Alps, I always marvelled at the parapenters (French for para-gliders) circling high above the peaks. Just imagine the view they have up there! As a bit of an adrenaline fan I thought that it could be something right up my street, but when the chance finally came to have my first para-glide flight, I was completely filled with apprehension. It certainly doesn’t help that the French parapente instructors are some of the most chilled people i’ve ever met. “It’s no biggie, jumping off a cliff and flying is normal for a human”. Yeah, right!!

So in short and to give you a complete realistic expectation, I am here to help. Firstly, It is a big deal but it is no way as scary as it seems. Secondly, parapenting is actually quite relaxing (think floating, gliding and coasting through the air rather than falling). Finally, you’re not alone, you have an expert there to do everything for you, so sit back, relax and enjoy the views and exhilaration!

2. What you will need

Paragliding really is accessible to all and for everyone the most important thing to bring is exactly the same… Your tandem instructor! They will know and have all the gear to get you up in the skies enjoying the Alps in a way you have never done before. So that just leaves you to bring a sensible pair of shoes, a jacket to cut the wind chill and a steady head.

3. Where best to try it

Paragliding in the Alps can be found in almost every resort and the best thing about it is that each place has their very own unique views to offer. How about a day trip to Annecy and fly over Lac Annecy watching the boats and water sports enthusiasts below? Perhaps you will choose to head to one of the highest resorts in the Alps, such as Tignes and enjoy flying around jagged peaks and snowy glaciers. Or stick to the valley resorts of Morzine and Les Gets and watch mountain bikers racing along the trail paths at high speeds.

If you’re in Switzerland then head to Verbier the king of paragliding resorts in the Alps. I think during my time in Verbier there wasn’t ever an occasion where a para-glider wasn’t overhead!

4. How you do it

It may be a silly idea, but just before take off you may be stood there on the a grassy plain just wondering how you are meant to end up flying amongst the birds and clouds. Taking off, for me, was one of the best parts. Clear your head, start running with pace and you will soon feel the parachute filling with air and starting to lift. From there, your tandem flight instructor will have the controls and be turning you so that you head in the right direction. Once you’re confident they will add a few twist and spins and donuts and spirals, but don’t worry there aren’t any loop the loops!

Coming in to land? Then get your running feet back on and you’ll swiftly come to a stop. Simple!

5. What next?

Once you’ve given this a go, I guarantee you will have caught the mountain adrenaline bug. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other sports and activities to get your teeth into! Why not hit the rivers and give white water rafting or canyoning a go? Looking for a bit of downhill speed? Then mountain biking is the one for you. Or finally wanting to have another go at testing your vertigo? Then try the via ferrata trails or tyrolines (zip wires).

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If you are after a bit more information about the resorts you can visit to have your first taste of paragliding in the Alps, then please get in touch. Amongst the team here, we not only have keen skiers but all round mountain enthusiasts, so we will be really happy to give you some, hints, tips and ideas. You can give us a call on +44 (0)1202 203659 or send us an email and we will gladly help you to find the perfect place to stay on your trip!

To end on an amusing note… I have provided you the opportunity to giggle away at a picture of me on my first paraglide flight!

My Life-Changing​ Experience Paragliding in the French Alps

En route to Embrun in southern French Alps, I was watching paragliders in the blue sky through a car window. They looked like birds peacefully moving through the air.

When a thought, that there is no engine or propeller attached to them thus making it totally unsafe, came over me, and I heard myself say out loud out “only crazy people can do such thing, surely this can’t be safe at all!?”.

Only to find myself being that crazy person a day later…

paragliders in the French alps in the blue sky

What exactly is paragliding?

Paragliding is the simplest and purest form of flying there is. A wide canopy resembling a parachute is attached to a person’s body by a harness in order to allow them to glide through the air after jumping from or being lifted to a height.

The night before

I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a relaxing next day after spending hours on the road when I got asked a question which at first I thought was a joke, “there is an opportunity to go paragliding tomorrow, would you like to do it?”.

“Flying in the air attached to nothing else but some inflatable wing? Hell, no!”, I answered firmly.

And that was it. Feeling proud that I said ‘no’ to something I didn’t want to do and in the comfort that I won’t have to dread it through the night, I went to bed.

On the day

The morning came, and as I was getting ready for a day full of other, less ‘scary’ adventures I started thinking that this might be my only chance to do paragliding.

“The opportunity is there, I just need to say yes… If the views from our Chateau’s window of the turquoise blue lake, the mountains, and the forests are so stunning, then it all must look even better from above…”, I was debating quietly.

And I just went for it before I talked myself out again, “Erm…so you know how you asked me about paragliding last night… so… when are we doing it!?”, I asked.

After an eye roll, a phone call was made.

To my luck, it was not too late and it got arranged with Jenif’air for the very same afternoon.

We were going small, twisting roads towards the highest hill the car could reach, completing the remainder of the journey by foot.

Walking through the golden meadows and barley fields, with already breathtaking views and warm sunshine in my face, I was beyond excited, “Am I about to experience something amazing?”, I secretly thought to myself.

The fear was gone and exhilaration has taken over.

walking in barley fields in embrue

Once we reached the final point, I was assigned with the pilot called, as he introduced himself – Tweety. Yes, like that little yellow canary from the Warner Bros.

Tweety loved flying so much that he even had the cartoon character tattooed on his upper arm.

I don’t think there is anything more fascinating than meeting someone with a passion in their life, even if the thing they are passionate about is not really your thing. But it’s the way their eyes light up when they talk about it or do it.

After I received all the instructions, I got strapped into the harness which was then clipped to Tweety.

getting strapped into the parachute harness

The wing was laid out on a hillside

getting strapped into the parachute harness

and as the wind picked up it got inflated over our heads like a kite.

parachute is inflated over our heads

We ran a few steps and, before I knew it, we had stepped off into the sky! What a feeling! Woohoo.

paragliding in the French alps

And off we flew… Once in the air, the pilot was able to maintain and even gain altitude using lifting air currents and thermals.

paragliding in the French alps

I could not stop smiling… and I even got to ‘steer’ it for a couple of minutes!

paragliding in the French alps

It was so quiet and peaceful up there that I instantly felt like a bird gliding through the sky.

It all made sense why Tweety loved flying so much.

The views were incredible: there was the vastness of the blue sky and the big round sun above us, and the dazzling, turquoise lake beneath us. Everything on the ground looked miniature.

I didn’t want it to end.

The landing was smoother than I expected. The pilot simply steered into the landing area and glided down for a very gentle touch down back on to earth.

paragliding in the French alps

How paragliding changed my life

If I had learned one thing that day was that sometimes we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone in order to experience the best things life has to offer.

Yes, I would have had a great time swimming in the lake or playing petanque on the sand instead (which I had done anyway), but I would have never learnt how rewarding it is to choose to do something that scares you.

Since then, I had done paragliding once more, I started climbing and bouldering, and I went hiking along a steep ridge. I even recently went skydiving and my fear of heights has practically disappeared!

Source https://www.see2alpes.com/paragliding/guide

Source https://www.alpsinluxury.com/blog/a-survivors-guide-to-paragliding-in-the-alps/

Source https://www.sheloveswanderlust.com/paragliding-in-the-french-alps/

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