[Stay] [Play] [Fly] The Ultimate Play Ground
Short walk to Le Chalvet take offPlenty of space for setting up hang glidersLe Chalvet south west take off - aerial shotGood launching spot for class 5'sPlenty of space on the main launch even on a busy dayParagliding tandem launchHang glider launchParagliders gain the first climb above take offSoaring along to the antenna - prime launch spot for XCMaking the transition to the Lambruisse ridge with Cheval Blanc in backgroundGliding back to St Andre Les AlpesParagliders making the final approach for the garden landingFlying over A Little Piece Of HeavenGrabbing a beer and smiling about the days flying with friends

XC Tips

St-Andre-les-Alpes is a world class flying site because of the reliable weather, good thermal sources and abundance of north south aligned ridges. thermo dynamic conditions that exist here.

Consequently pilots will fairly easily find reliable sources of lift, can follow the long ridge lines like highways and hop from one ridge to the next to cover big distances. Fairly common are routes north to the Dormilouse and back. A trip of over 100km.

This is why St Andre is often used for flying competitions too.

Many pilots come here wanting to extend their personal best cross country XC flights so we have complied some of information from our experience here to help you.

The Launch Window

Below is the most typical summer wind scenario for launching but each day can be different so use your experience to assess the conditions and act appropriately.

Generally in summer the thermals on Le Chalvet begin in front of the S take off around 10.30am. Early starts are made here but the thermals will be weak initially and it is a good time for low airtime pilots to get some practice.

As the sun moves around Le Chalvet so does the upslope wind and the south west and west face begin to work from about 11.30am.

Often this makes the wind on the south take off in lee and blow from over the back so if you started here but did not launch you are advised to move to the south west / west take off at this time.

From 11.30am in front of the south west and west take off thermals begin weak and pilots will be scratching in the dynamic lift and toping up in thermals as they come through. Thermal strength and frequency will increase and the upslope wind on take off will get stronger. Pilots will need a good well timed reverse launch to take off now.

By about 1pm, when with the associated venturi effect the wind speed on take off becomes too difficult or dangerous for paraglider pilots to launch.

Strong inversions and later in the season the start of the thermals will be delayed and the launch window may extend to 2pm for paraglider pilots.

The dilema for pilots is if you take off too early you may scratch about, loose height and have an early landing. If you leave it to late the wind on take off will become too strong for paraglider pilots to take off.

Nigel recommends paraglider pilots launch from the west take off as soon as the signs tell you that the thermals are working (breezes coming through, the giffon vultures thermalling, pilots getting up above the hill)

Hang glider pilots nearly always takeoff from the south west take off and Mark recommends a later start aiming to launch between 2-4pm.

Of course if you miss the launch window do not stress out or launch when you know it's unwise to. Go and do another activity for the afternoon then come back later when conditions start calming down again. XC's are still possible in the more gentle thermals after 5pm and you may get the perfect evening glass off in the sunset.

Good flying can be had here till as late as 9pm in the Summer and 7pm in Autumn/spring.


XC Tips Whilst Hang Gliding At St-Andre-les-Alpes

See above for further information on when to launch.

Here is Mark's decision making logic while soaring hangliders:

  • How is the day going/changing? = strong, weak, turbulent
  • Whats my average climb rate? = can I fly faster with saftey
  • Am I in strong sink? = speed up
  • Am I in lift? = slow down
  • Hows my altitude? = do I need to change gear - Move to conserving building height or speed up
  • Where will I land in an emergency? = Always have a good reach-able spot in mind
  • Can I run this ridge or should I get high and stay high? = Yes or no

It is possible to cover tremendous distance in out and returns using the weakest conditions applying these simple rules.

I also have a fairly weak tolerance to turbulence and will generally fly much later in the day using my class 5 hang glider. I love the mellow glass off flights that start from about 3-5pm depending on the time of year. Even leaving at this time we can easily cover 100km out and returns or cats cradles round the mountains.

I am often dismayed to see visiting hang glider pilots launch and land early when the day would have been so much better a few hours on. Saint Andre is generally a better flying site later in the day.

Go and enjoy the lake the area and other activities. Aim to launch for 2-4pm depending on the time of year.

For more XC tips visit our XC routes page.

XC Tips Whilst Paragliding At St-Andre-les-Alpes

The launch window for paragliding XC in summer is between about 10.30am and 1pm. Generally the thermals

The decision making logic remains the same  for paraglider pilots too except that with a poorer glide angle we need to ensure we get more height to make our glides:

  • What sort of day is it and how is it changing? =
    • wind direction and strength - which are the soaring slopes/ lee side slopes, is my ground speed fast/ slow, which direction will I fly furthest, is it getting too strong
    • thermals - strong lift/ weak lift, wide/tight, gentle/ turbulent,  drifting, affected by inversions
    • cloud base - high/ low
    • Is the day improving or deteriorating?
  • Am I in strong sink? = speed up
  • Am I in lift? = slow down
  • Hows my altitude? = do I need gain height or glide on to better lift
  • Where will I land in an emergency? = Always have a good reach-able spot in mind

The speed, glide ratio of a paraglider does not easily allow you to out-run pockets of rapid sinking air
You also need to be mindful of the differing valley flows and possible stronger winds lower down.

For more XC tips visit our XC routes page.




Whilst every reasonable precaution has been taken in the preparation of this information, we assume no responsibility for errors or omissions or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained therein. Information is provided ‘as-is’ without warranty of any kind, either express or implied. In no event will we will be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, special or other consequential damages for any use of this website or any other hyperlinked website.

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