Is Paragliding in the Alps the Best Way to Get High?

Jumping off a 6,000-foot slope with a paraglider is an incredible rush that's actually pretty damn safe

Paragliding, like everything in the French and Swiss Alps, is a pretty laid-back experience. Fortunately, my instructor with Air Libre in the Les Gets ski resort did all of the heavy lifting. All I had to do was run a short distance off the side of a ski slope—and the next thing I knew, we were flying high above Mont Chery.

I know it sounds a bit risky to jump off a mountain with no training, but statistically, paragliding is as safe as driving. And my instructor has been paragliding almost as long as I’ve been alive. So he’s got a bit of practice under his belt.

Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe, kept us oriented as we gained elevation, finding pockets of warm air, called thermals, and riding them like birds. Rather than soar straight down, thermals helped us reach a higher altitude. 

Soon we were doing wingovers. As only experienced pilots can, my instructor harnessed the energy from turning the glider in one direction and used it to make a more aggressive turn in the opposite direction. To me, as a passenger, it felt like riding a swing … made out of clouds.

With my instructor at the helm, I was able to sit back, absorb every moment and snap a bunch of photos. Skiers and snowboarders looked like ants down below.

No experience is required for a tandem first flight with Air Libre, and at 75 euro per person, it’s a great deal. My flight lasted about 10 minutes, but it’s such an outstanding sensory experience that the world beneath your feet, your day-to-day responsibilities and the notion of time itself seem to melt away.

Fun Facts
•    Tandem paragliding in Les Gets costs about half as much as the average first flight in the U.S.
•    The youngest child to go paragliding in Les Gets was 5 years old.
•    My instructor with Air Libre, Dominique Pellet-Jambaz, has been paragliding since 1986.

My trip to the Alps was made possible by Atout France. Views expressed are my own.