Free as a bird

Written by Julia Tregaskis-Allen 15 December 2010

A 'normal' afternoon A 'normal' afternoon

Today started off as a normal day in Chamonix - blue skies, sunshine and an hour or so out skating on the cross country ski tracks. (What a wonderful place to live!) But the afternoon was not quite so 'normal' - well not for me anyway. My husband had arranged an early birthday present for me a - tandom paraglide flight. For many years now I have watched people launch themselves off from the mountainside with a parachute in tow and wondered what it would feel like. It looks so graceful. So as a 'treat' this is how I spent my afternoon! We met with, Sean Potts, a Chamonix based instructor & pilot. His cool, calm and collected manner coupled with his 22 years of flying immediately made me feel totally safe under his wing!

It was -12 just in the carpark so I was well wrapped up for the 900m ride up a Chamonix cable car to Plan Praz at 2000m. Not wanting the cold to ruin the experience. We walked to the launch area and Sean gave me what seemed very few instructions as he unscrambled what he called 'spaggetti' - the glider and cords! I took a good look around - we were stood on the snowy mountainside with all the familiar but always impressive rocky spires all around with the sun on our faces. Within 10 minutes of leaving the lift we were both hooked up to the paraglider and began running together in what felt like slow motion off the mountain side above the trees. There was a slight moment of panic as you realise it's too late now!

I felt the wind lift us up and take the weight from beneath us and we were flying! It's a lovely sensation to be floating, bobbing and being buffeted by the air. As the warm air rises you gain lift and can hold your height giving you time to play on the thermals. Once the initial anxiety and excitment faded, there was plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and take in that you are actually flying! Half way down I was given the controls and made some turns as we joined other gliders in the sky, Sean took over for the last few swooping turns and made a very smooth landing. So if you've ever thought you'd like to have a go what better place than with fabulous views of Mont Blanc! For further details on planning a flight as part of your trip to the Alps then drop us a line and we'll make it happen. I can honestly say whether you are 8 or 80 you'd love it.

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