If you’ve never tried paragliding before (or maybe you’re not entirely sure what it is!) then Chamonix 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 Chamonix is a great place to give it a go.
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"! Either way, 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 rucksack & can be taken all over the world.
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 scary moment; once you have been equipped with a helmet, and strapped to the instructor behind you (in a rather intimate way), both of you simply run downhill, and carry on getting faster and faster until the parachute lifts you into the air.
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 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!
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 ten to twenty 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.