Guide to Annecy, France

  • A landscape that could be designed for XC flying
  • Europe’s cleanest lake, for SIV and a refreshing dip
  • Go throughout the European summer, April to October
  • The latest gear in the paragliding shops
Contemplating crossing the lake back to Montmin during a Tour du Lac. Photo: Jérôme Maupoint

Contemplating crossing the lake back to Montmin during a Tour du Lac. Photo: Jérôme Maupoint

WHY GO?
Classic Alpine flying with everything made easy for you.

WHERE IS IT?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Surf up searing limestone escarpments, cross the azure waters of Europe’s cleanest lake, and soar for miles along ridges that seem almost purpose-made for XC flying. Land, take a dip in the lake then peruse the local paragliding shops for the latest equipment. Annecy is a free-flyer’s paradise and arguably the Alps’ most popular flying area, for very good reasons.

Annecy sits on the north-west corner of the Alps. The valley opens out on to the plains and allows fantastic flying opportunities, particularly when the conditions are too unstable to fly deeper in the mountains. The picturesque city of Annecy sits at the top of the 15-kilometre lake, which has take-offs on both sides.

Pilots flock here throughout the year as the easy access and simple XC routes offer an unprecedented flying experience. The presence of the lake makes it perfect for SIV and acro courses and for manufacturers to test their wings.

The main take-off is high above the southern end of the lake and faces west. It starts working around 1.30 pm on a good day. It’s a simple soar north along the west-facing ridges to the Dents de Lanfon, a spectacular limestone pinnacle. From there, pilots either head across the lake, north to Annecy town or east into the bigger mountains and towards Mt Blanc. Continuous west-facing ridges make for easy XC routes and allow big triangles and out-and-returns.

The lower take-off at Planfait, a man-made cutting in the forest above the landing at Perroix, starts working a bit earlier and takes you straight on to the Dents de Lanfon. For an even earlier start it’s possible to launch from a small, east-facing take-off at Entrevernes. However, the launch is tiny, only a wing’s width wide, and it’s difficult to get away from.

To the west of the lake lies Semnoz, a sublime west-facing ridge that runs for 35 easy kilometres to the south, giving you possibly the easiest 70 km out-and-return in the world.

The XC potential of Annecy is limitless. The basic Petit Tour du Lac is a first step for many pilots on their XC careers. The longer Grand Tour du Lac crosses over the edge of Annecy city itself and is a fantastic day out. Other longer routes take you south towards Grenoble or east towards Mt Blanc.

The main landing is at the southern end of the lake near Doussard, in a huge field next to the sports hall. A smaller landing at Perroix, just north of Talloires, enjoys a great bar and not one, but two, well-stocked paragliding shops and a repair centre. The local community and authorities are as pro-free flying as anywhere in the world.

Shuttles service both launches from Perroix landing, and hitching is easy because everyone knows what’s in your big bag.

FLYING CONDITIONS
Easy mountain thermal flying, giving access to XC routes of all size and grandeur. A valley breeze sets up down the lake from the north-west every day. If it’s coming the other way, something is wrong! Annecy can be strong in spring but tends to mellow in midsummer as the area becomes more stable. Then the nearby site of Grand Bornand is a better option.

WHEN TO GO
April till October

ALTITUDE
Cloudbase: 2,000 – 3,500 m
Launch: Montmin 1,240 m, Planfait 960 m
Landing: Doussard 460 m, Perroix 540 m

HANG GLIDER ACCESS
Both main launches are driveable, and hang gliders are catered for with ramps at Montmin.

MUST BE FLOWN
The tours of the lake are simple but exceptional XCs. A late afternoon jaunt down the impressive Aravis chain to the east is a fantastic evening run for pilots of any level.

DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
There’s a small airport in Annecy, and the airspace for nearby Chambery touches the very northern end of Semnoz

Cu-Nims to the north can send strong gusts down the lake. Keep an eye on the water for indications.

ACCOMMODATION
Annecy town has hotels and hostels of every variety. Camping is available close to the Perroix landing and at the end of the lake near Doussard. Expat Brit Irwyn Jehu runs www.maison-du-moulin.co.uk, a pilots’ B&B, from just near Doussard at the end of the lake.

GUIDES AND COURSES
There are a wealth of courses and guides operating out of Annecy. Try www.lespassagersduvent.com, www.parapente-annecy.com or www.flyeo.com for experienced local guides and instructors. The British guide Bob Drury says: “I taught XC in Annecy for ten years, as it has everything pilots need to learn in beautiful surroundings and with easy logistics.”

MUST BE FLOWN
The tours of the lake and the route to Chamonix via the Aravis.

TAKE THE FAMILY
Oh yes, they’ll love it! Not only is the lake beautiful, warm and clean, but there’s are no end of activities, both outdoor and inside in Annecy. A walk around the city itself with an ice cream by the canal is a must for every visitor.

RAINY DAYS
Peruse the well-stocked flying shops, then wander the old parts of the city or head into the hills for a big stomp.

WEATHER INFO
Daily forecasts are posted at both the shops in Perroix, or use www.meteofrance.com or www.para2000.org.

GETTING THERE
Geneva is the closest major international airport. Take a train into Geneva then on to Annecy, or hire a car.

USEFUL CONTACTS
Try any of the schools’ websites for flying information. Go to www.lac-annecy.com for general information.


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