Friday, October 14, 2016

Paragliding Over the France Alps in Chamonix

After a sumptuous breakfast buffet at Hotel Mont Blanc, Vivian and I walked to the flying school of Air Sports Chamonix, looking forward to the most anticipated paragliding experience. It was our first time flying in the air, and I am not talking about sitting securely on a plane.

We were welcomed warmly by Binoit once we reached the property. We were offered hot tea and seated comfortably on the couch. Since it was our first time, we failed to realize that it might be very cold up there and had totally forgotten about the freezing feeling up at Aiguille Du Midi yesterday. So despite bring mentally prepared to fly, apparently we were not physically well-prepared for the paragliding experience. Richard drove us back to our hotel (yay!!) to collect our socks and lent us down-feather vests, windbreakers, and hiking shoes. So kind right? They also helped us to take photos and videos with GoPro, which I think it is great, we couldn’t take a good selfie up there with a smartphone or camera (and the risk of dropping them is too high due to our trembling hands, anyhow, we wouldn't have done it.).

After reaching up to 1000m by the cable car, we started to prepare for the flight. Our pilots, Richard and Jean, prepared the paragliders while we warmed up. It was fun to watch others set off as we waited for our turn. There was a little girl about 4 years old paragliding right before our turn and she didn't even show a hint of fear! Cool little girl, ain't? 

When everything was set, Richard told me a secret to successful take off: Just look at Mont Blanc and keep running with all my effort until he tells me to keep the legs up. But I was too nervous, I forgot about this. I stopped running as soon as my feet left the ground. Vivian told me after the flight that we dropped down in altitude a little bit at first. Then, Richard adjusted the harness to a posture which I felt like a joey sitting in a kangaroo's pocket. As we flew higher and higher, I was very excited. Richard pointed out the places below us, I was amazed at how high we were at, especially when I saw where Aiguille du Midi was located. I am quite curious sometimes and tend to ask a lot of questions if the "pro" looks kind. Richard explained the physics behind paragliding: how we stay in the air by utilizing the wind and the heat from the sun, at the same time trying to fly higher and higher. It was too bad that we didn’t manage to spot any forest animal, maybe  it was too early for them.

Soon, Richard handed me the control handles and let me steer the paraglider. Meanwhile, He set up the GoPro to take pictures and videos. I was so afraid and started imagining what would happen if we fell down T^T . Richard taught me how to turn by pulling the left and right handle. I felt like a string toy when pulling the handles! haha XD 

After a while, Richard pointed to a ground saying that we were going to land there. OMG, are you seriously going to let me land this thing? Luckily no, instead, Richard taught me the way to balance myself and stand up once landed, and then he proceeded to the landing. The descending was so fast and I knocked Richard’s nose when I tried to stand up straight! Sorry Richard >.< But Richard said it doesn’t hurt, how kind of him.

Since we landed first, we waited on the landing field for Vivian and Jean. As soon as they landed we exchanged opinions about the flight and Vivian showed me her photos. One of them was an amazing shot of her hiking boots with the French Alps as the background. Vivian told me Jean raised her up by controlling the paraglider for her to take that photo, such a great experience! 

We both opted for the tandem flight experience and the pilots assigned to us were professional and caring (plus, loving their sense of humor!). We never at one point felt unsafe while flying! The pilots are able to customize the paragliding experiences according to our requests and adventure levels. The only thing I regretted is I should ask for freestyle flight. It looked fun when I saw Vivian and Jean doing freestyle tricks in the air. 

Jean patiently answered my (many) questions. 
With my pilot, Richard!
I highly recommend Air Sports Chamonix for either Tandem or individual paragliding. And, here is a shout out for Richard and Jean for making our first paragliding experience a memorable one!  

This article was written by blog contributor, Jeanne Cheah and co-writen by blog editor, Vivian Lee. 

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Miss Happy Feet was a guest of Air Sports Chamoonix. However all opinion and photos are as always, our own. 

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