Simple guide for paragliding in the ALPS

Paragliding in the Alps

Paragliding in the Alps is exhilarating, with breathtaking views as you soar above the majestic mountains, but it comes with some risks. So let’s take it step by step.

Keep a safety margin

The closer you are to the terrain, the less time you have to react and correct the situation. Assume you’ll make some mistakes, so add more separation from the ground than you think you need. That way you have a safety margin.

Check the rules

Understand your landing field options, especially the one directly below the launch site. Choosing the wrong approach or landing spot can disrupt the site for everyone. You might be expected to adapt your approach based on the wind direction, so read the site information board on the landing field (or launch site) or on the club website. You can find out more in the Best Flying Sites of the ALPS book.

Be ready for active flying

Thermals create messy air currents, so expect to make quick adjustments to counter turbulence and unexpected changes in the air. When your wing moves ahead of you, calm it down with steady braking. When it moves behind you, keep your hands high to let it fly.

Be strategic

Choose slopes with a broad area to feed warm air upwards. Aim for A-shaped mountains, and building cumulus clouds. Follow the sun: use east-facing slopes in the morning, south-facing slopes at midday, and west-facing slopes late in the day. This usually makes your best route an A shape that follows the flow of the day. Build altitude above the highest terrain, so you can cut out tricky areas during your glides.

Study the airspace

Modern flight instruments play a crucial role in paragliding safety. Some of the more expensive instruments offer airspace warnings, but I still recommend navigation apps such as Navigator, XCtrack, or FlySkyHi to check airspace restrictions because these include NOTAMS which are only added a day or two before your flight. Understanding airspace regulations is vital, especially when flying near controlled airspace. You can study the airspace restrictions using

Make informed decisions

It’s much easier to plan ahead using a map, because the terrain can block your view. Read the landscape and study the wind patterns to make informed decisions to stay airborne while minimizing risks. Valley wind systems work in predictable ways, flowing upstream, uphill, towards the main Alpine divide. To study them in more detail, get the Alps wind maps from Viento.

Enjoy the journey

Paragliding in the Alps is a thrilling and rewarding game that demands skill, knowledge, and a keen sense of decision-making. Build experience at the simpler sites on the fringes of the Alps before going for the deep committed valleys in the central peaks. Are you ready for your own adventures? Explore the Alps with this free download featuring the five best flying sites for beginners.

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