Head in the clouds & wings on the wind: The idyllic alpine town Chamonix, France pitches it well. Paragliding is above all their most popular all year around experience. You’ll be amazed how many parachutes you’ll spot around the area. It decided to take the jump & see the Mont Blanc up close.
shall we jump?
‘Bonjour Madame, are you ready to fly?’ My pilot greets me with a smile at the entrance of the local ticket office in Chamonix. She, a thirty something fit looking lady called Linda, is clearly enthusiastic about our flight. Can’t blame her, the weather is impeccable and she’s doing what she loves. Her calm and collected posture reassures me she’s been doing this before, 20 years to be exact. Me and my friend Nat are advised to take the lift up and wait for the team. Cause we’re way ahead of our jumping time, which is 2PM, this buys me time to investigate the jumping field in the Chamonix Valley. To get there you buy a ticket for Aiguille du Midi at the ski office and hop on board. Hot chocolate overlooking extraordinary cliffs are more than enough to awaken butterflies in my belly. I see students and teachers, people jumping solo, professionals in helmets and many extra large backpacks, just to fit their safety blankets.
How It Works
Pilot Linda finally arrives and starts to prepare the chute. I do not get a detailed briefing but I’m free to watch how the entanglement of the cords goes down. She explains I need to run of the hill when she says so and cannot stop, that would make the parachute fall back down. Meanwhile I put on my ski pants to battle the polar mountain air during the 30 minute flight. After buckling up the harness we’re good to go. ‘RUN Anna’, she screams. So I run.
How it Feels
Five seconds later we’re up in the air. Although I expect to be hanging, Linda lets me sit ons this cocoon made of fabric. Way more comfortable than I imagined. I feel the crisp air against my cheeks, surrounded by the most pristine nature. All is white, all is bright. We fly over woods, mountains, villages and over the glacier. It’s super sad to learn that The Bossons Glacier, one of the larger glaciers of the Mont Blanc, shrinks every year by a few centimeters, cause of the global warming. In fact, more than a half is already gone. So I feel privileged and blessed to experience it. My buddy tells me how she teaches paragliding and therefor flies everyday, even in the winter, jumping off the highest mountaintops. To top it off, I get to hold the strings to navigate the parachute. Was its that obvious I wanted to try? Ha. Considering I’m that enthusiastic, Linda adds some acrobatics to our flight. I get a tiny bit nauseous from all the twirling. That’s weird. I’ve never feel sick, not even in boats or rollercoasters. Luckily the feeling shifts as soon as my feet hit the ground. Later she explains that motion sickness can occur when you’re not in charge of the navigation, as during the acrobatic movements.
Chill vs Thrill
Surprisingly enough Paragliding is NOT a thrilling ride adrenaline wise. At least to me it isn’t. You don’t do any crazy stuff, no free falling, no upside down movement, no backflips. It’s more the delight of the up-close mountain view that makes it spectacular. I’m completely hooked. Moreover I’m convinced that this experience is worth a hundred helicopter flights, just cause you are so close to nature, there’s no window and certainly no sunlight reflection disturbing your view. It’s just you and the sound of wind blowing around your ears.
- Dress accordingly, although the flight is rather short, you are sitting still and the cold wind will blow agains your body.
- If you require camera equipment, you better attach it to the chute or to yourself. These paragliding tours can shake them right off your hands if not attached.
- We were not allowed any backpacks, the more you wear, the more weight you’ll need to fly back down, no one got room for that.
- Buy your flight at the tourist office, those guys know the best prices and the best guides that will personally discuss a good deal for you. Me and Nat just went to Chamonix Tourist office and got a number from them which hooked us up with the coolest people. Unfortunately I can only link you with the Chamonix Tourist Office. Our Paragliding Experience expense came to 130 euro per flight and 30 euro for GoPro footage.
- Chamonix Cable Car tickets can be booked on the spot, waiting lines are about 15 min long off Snow Season, we went end of November. They were 16 euro one way, to Aiguille du Midi. (You’ll fly back down so you don’t need a return).
- More about my trip to French Alps & Mont Blanc.
- The footage of this tour can be found here: French Alps + Paragliding