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Paragliding Above Montreux

The take-off point

The take-off point

You’re strapped into a seat-like appendage, and your instructor – attired similarly – is strapped in right behind you. Laid out on the ground behind, like a hundred crumpled bedsheets, is a large parachute. The slope ahead is gentle, but beyond that it’s a freefall.

As the wind picks up, your instructor tells you to run and you do. Soon – after no more than 5 steps – your feet are off the ground, and voila! You’re paragliding.

Chillon Castle from the air

Chillon Castle from the air

This is a typical scenario on a good-wind day. With different wind conditions or time of day, the jump-off point is a near-vertical cliff…

In the air…
Right in front of you, the land is laid out like a Google map. As the wind whips across your face – which seems a bit strong considering you’re gliding very gently in the air – you can pick out the landmarks of the area. The village of Villeneuve is right below, with the iconic Chillon Castle along the lake. Beyond lies Montreux, famous for its jazz festivals.

As your instructor steers the chute towards the mountains, you’ll see – dotted across the lush green hills – a smattering of buildings. A farmhouse here, a grand old hotel there, and even a large hospitality school right on top of the hill.

Gliding above the wetlands

Gliding above the wetlands

On a brilliant sunny day (with a good amount of wind), you’ll see up to 20 paragliders in the air at once. The launch site at Sonchaux (official site of Red Bull Vertigo) can seem pretty crowded on good fly days. It can be a bit scary when you see fellow paragliders in the air at close proximity – at times you’ll be within a few feet of each other – but the pilots who glide in this area are all experienced. It’s like a small community where everyone knows everyone.

View from the GoPro

View from the GoPro

As you get more comfortable in the air, your instructor might even let you have a go at the controls – which consists of simple handles attached to flimsy strings that dangle on either sides of the chute. If you’re gliding with Fabien Maillard (owner of Fly-Xperience), then he’ll most likely take you on a “spin” – which makes you feel like you’re going around in a spin dryer. He also captures the action on his GoPro, so you’ll have a video souvenir at the end of the ride.

Gliding over the mountain

Gliding over the mountain

Around Montreux
Paragliding is one of the many things you can do in the Montreux Riviera (a region consisting of Montreux, Vevey and Lavaux). This French-speaking region of Switzerland – facing Lake Geneva and backed by snowcapped mountains – is famous for its UNESCO-listed Lavaux terraced vineyards.

Winery tours are popular here, and if you’re interested in outdoor adventure, the nearby mountains are a haven for hiking and skiing (in winter).

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