I took my wing to Courchevel France on the off-chance that I might get a paragliding flight in on my skiing holiday and well worth it.

First port of call is the 'Office de Remonte Mechanique' at Courchevel 1850, under the main lifts building. A BHPA membership to show you have third-party insurance (or a letter in my case, since I could not find the my card) plus a passport photo gets you the appropriate permit to carry your glider on their lifts. Free of charge (the permits, not the lift pass).

The only TO working on the day was at the top of Col de Loze - there is a Frence tandem paragliding outfit operating out of a shed, with posters and banners etc., just by the restaurant. I was warned that they may be unfriendly, but I approached one of their salesgirls and she was able to tell me all about the TO and LZ. The public TO is just 100 yards beyond the schools TO's, walking between their shed and the restaurant.

paragliding courchevel in france
Paragliding Courchevel in France
high above courchevel
High above Courchevel
only just club pilot
And only just Club Pilot
views over courchevel
Views over Courchevel
views over the alps
Views over the Alps

I was well-assisted by a friendly local paragliding pilot, who talked me through everything for 20 minutes, helped me lay out, advised me on launch. A momentary hesitation on the edge of the drop-off brought my wing down and sent me sliding down a rocky slope for a few yards, cheered by people on the chairlift. Twenty minutes later, back at launch, a straight-forward take off sent me over the Morzine valley, with 20 minutes spent thermalling above a forest.

A word of caution - advice that the landing zone is "over the ridge and straight ahead" can be confusing at height, when you can see a dozen towns scattered around. My first flight ended after 40 minutes with, I suspect, an illegal landing in La Tania - one town I recognised as I was staying there. 150 foot pine trees, a nursery slope and some drag-lifts added to the excitement of what I have heard referred to a "extreme manoeuvres close to the ground". I landed sliding though a pool of mud, taking out a cafe table with my wing (sorry pub l'Arbett). Exit stage left, thinking of horses and getting straight back on...

Two further flights to La Praz (aka Courchevel 1300 - cross ridge to your right, keep going for a couple of km, and its the big town with the ski-jump) gave me another 40 minutes or so, just reminding myself what it was all about, and admiring the scenery. The landing is next to the ski-jump, with a dozen huge flag poles acting as an excellent wind indicator, ensuring perfect landings. Then hop on the bubble, and off you go again...

Motto: Don't leave home without it.


Airsports Paragliding, Brighton City Airport (Shoreham Airport), West Sussex, BN43 5FF, just five minutes from our main sites.
and close to London - Tel 01903 861378 -