The city of Annecy is often associated with its famous lake, on which many sporting activities can be practiced. But with its unique natural setting and its history, Annecy is also a Mecca for paragliding both in Europe and in the world.
Cradle of paragliding
It was in Annemasse, not far from Annecy, that paragliding was born. In 1978, André Bohn and Jean-Claude Bétemps had the idea of using their parachute canopy to take off from the slope. This experiment and those that followed were so successful that the following year the first “para-club” with a very local name, “Les Choucas”, was opened in Mieussy, 60 kilometres from Annecy.
Since then, this practice has developed first among mountaineers who saw it as a quick and practical way to come down from their ascent, to finally become a discipline in its own right all over the world. There are world championships for the best pilots every year. But fortunately, paragliding is no longer reserved for an elite or a happy few. This sport has become widely democratised, helped by ever more efficient and reliable equipment, allowing the greatest number of people, without any prior knowledge, to enjoy the simple but unforgettable joys of flying at altitude.
On April 20, 2021, a paragliding guide, Théo Audebaud, took off from the Col de Tamié in Savoie near Faverges. He flew to the Bastille of Grenoble to arrive on the north of the lake of Annecy by flying over the massifs of Bauges and Chartreuse. The flight lasted 8 hours and 23 minutes and covered 200 km.
Paragliding is at the top of the list of activities in Annecy not only for these historical reasons, but also for its privileged natural setting. The 130,000 take-offs per year are proof that the site has real aerological qualities. This is particularly true over Lake Annecy. Horizontal winds are often weak, unlike the thermal updrafts which are abundant.
In addition, the excellent infrastructure, such as the take-off sites and the road network, allow great accessibility for both take-off and landing.
But the aesthetic aspect should not be forgotten. The valley around Annecy offers splendid landscapes and allows for a truly unique flying experience with the expanse of the lake, the surrounding greenery dominated by the peaks of the Alps and their eternal snows.
The different routes
Around the lake, the main take-off sites are Planfait (950 metres above sea level), the Col de la Forclaz (1250 metres above sea level), Entrevernes, Semnoz, the Parc Naturel Régional des Bauges or the ski lifts of Grand-Bornand and La Clusaz for higher altitude take-offs.
Paragliding is a magical sport that offers unique sensations. The Annecy region is one of the most beautiful places in France for paragliding. Where are they? Let us guide you!
1. Lake Annecy
This is the most famous spot in Europe with the guarantee to fly over this magnificent lake. Departures are from the commune of Talloires-Montmin at the Col de la Forclaz at an altitude of 1,250 metres. The slope is steep for the take-off and the sensations too. You also have the possibility of taking off a little lower at Planfait at 950 meters high.
Afterwards, magical moments await you, between lake and mountains. You fly near the Dents de Lanfon mountain, the Tournette massif and the Mont Veyrier. The landing is on a plain at the bottom of the village.
2. The Semnoz
The Semnoz is the favourite mountain of the inhabitants of Annecy because its summit is located 15 kilometres from the town. It is at an altitude of 1,700 metres and is the ideal place to take off on a paraglider. The favourable air currents allow you to rise high enough to see Mont Blanc.
You can practice this discipline alone or if you are accompanied by your instructor, he will guide you to the most beautiful panoramas. It should be noted that this beautiful mountain of Semnoz has several take-off spots for paragliding and even hang-gliding.
3. Lake Aiguebelette
The lake of Aiguebelette is located a few dozen kilometres from Annecy. The lake’s beaches are popular in summer. Smaller than Lake Annecy, it remains a safe bet for a pleasant holiday. The strong updrafts make it easy to fly over the lake.
We recommend the good restaurants around the lake for lunch after a paragliding trip near Annecy.
4. The Mont Revard
Between Aix-les-Bains and Annecy, Mont Revard rises to an altitude of 1,550 metres in the north of the large Bauges massif. A paragliding flight along the ridge of this mountain is an unforgettable moment of your holiday in the Alps. In good weather, with good visibility, you can see the Jura Mountains in the distance. It is a little known spot but will leave you with unforgettable memories of your stay in Savoie.
The flight over the Lac du Bourget, the largest lake in France, bordering Switzerland, is a highlight of these paragliding flights.
5. La Clusaz
The resort of La Clusaz, 25 kilometres from Annecy, is a traditional village in Haute-Savoie which has kept its character intact. Beautiful chalets and a village square are evidence of this. The facilities for summer and winter tourism live up to its reputation. The paragliding launch site can be reached by using chairlifts. They are located at an altitude of 1,900 metres. Once in the air, you can enjoy the architecture of the village and the splendid Aravis massif. If you want to taste the local gastronomy, there are many excellent restaurants.
Prices and practical information
Price levels vary according to several criteria. If you want to make a first flight, you need an instructor to accompany you. He will give you a full briefing before the flight. Depending on the location, prices vary between 70 and 150 €. If you want a video of your first flight, the price is close to 200 €. Courses are also available to improve your level and perfect your skills. A paragliding course costs between 300 and 600 €.
The minimum age depends on the paragliding site. In most cases you must be over 5 years old. Depending on the equipment, a maximum weight may be required. Clothing includes a fleece, windbreaker, gloves and closed sports shoes. There is no particular physical condition required, only pregnant women are not accepted.
Finally, the paragliding flight can be cancelled at the last moment if the weather conditions are unfavourable.
5 tips to start paragliding
This exciting sport attracts many beginners. In order to make the most of it, it is important to consider the following 5 tips:
- Discover the sensation of flying by starting with a first flight.
- For your first flights, choose a school certified by the Fédération Française de Vol Libre (French Free Flight Federation) and follow the advice and safety rules of your instructor.
- Make a tandem flight and then an initiation course over a few days.
- Choose the right equipment: glider and harness, reserve parachute, helmet, radio, gloves, sunglasses and suitable shoes.
- Fly in a group to improve safety, challenge and learning.
Paragliding is one of the activities to discover if you are staying in the Annecy area. To access the two most beautiful sites: Planfait and the Col de la Forclaz, Sibra shuttle buses run ten times a day from Annecy in summer. The buses leave from the Annecy bus station.
Paragliding clubs in Annecy
There are many paragliding clubs in Annecy where you can practice this sport in complete safety and in a pleasant atmosphere:
- Les Chamois Volants: this is the largest club in France with nearly 400 members, founded in 1988 in Talloires-Montmin. It includes world-class competitors in distance and acrobatic paragliding. It manages the Planfait / Perroix site. Various outings are organised outside. Address: 39, Chemin de Pré Monteux – ZI Perroix – 74 290 TALLOIRES
- L’ASPTT Parapente: This club offers many outings in a good atmosphere for all levels. You must join the ASPTT association in Annecy. Address: 1 Allée des Cyclades, 74960 Annecy – Tel: 04 50 66 11 55
- The Annecy Handi-Bi interclub: co-managed by the ASPTT Parapente and the Chamois Volants, it offers to fly people with reduced mobility with two-seater flights in wheelchairs. Run by volunteers, to contact this club, it is necessary to get in touch with the two previous clubs. On 24 September 2021, the 1,000th tandem paragliding flight with a disabled passenger took place. These flights take place on Fridays when weather conditions permit.
- Annecy Vol de Pente: This association aims to train you from initiation to pilot’s licence. The paragliding school is run by qualified instructors. The club has its own shuttle which is available to members for outings between pilots. Other excursions are organised outside of paragliding: snowshoeing and skiing. Address: 6 rue de la cité, 74 000 Annecy – Tel: 04 50 52 89 85
- Virage Annecy: This club school allows you to learn slope flying. It is a partner of the Pass’Jeunes Annecy which offers advantages to young people in Annecy to fly at a lower cost. All the equipment is lent by the club and the instructors are volunteers. Address: 12 Rue Louis Boch – 74000 Annecy – Tel: 04 50 57 92 95