Long mountain ridges, powerful thermals and 300 days of sunshine per year make Saint-André-les-Alpes one of the world’s best paragliding sites.
Paragliding at the Le Chalvet site in St André
Saint-André-les-Alpes is a little Haute-Provence village of 900 inhabitants at the northern end of the turquoise Lac de Castillon in the Verdon Natural Reserve.
During its 20 years as a paragliding destination, St André has carved out a reputation as one of the world’s top sites for cross-country flying. The thermal rockets of the southern French Alps conspire with the high cloud base, dominant north-south winds and interconnected ridges to make it a superb jumping off point for some epic long distance flights. Testimony to this is the fact that a number of paragliding world records have been set from Le Chalvet and pilots from all over the world flock here to improve their cross-country PBs.
Paragliding Lessons and Tandem Flights in St André les Alpes
St André is also a great place to learn to paraglide. Big open landing sites, a thermal breeze you can set your watch by and take-offs possible into four points of the compass. And with easy access via a tarmac road from local school Aérogliss top to bottom logistics are straightforward.
St André les Alpes Paragliding Map and Forecast
Click on the icon for current conditions including wind direction, wind speed and cloud base. Scroll down the pop-up window for a Windfinder forecast.
Paragliding Uplift Shuttles
Uplift shuttles organised by local paragliding club ASAVL are available to book from mid-June to mid-September. They run continuously from 8 am to 1 pm and again after 5 pm from the Aérogliss base to the take-off. The driver will leave as soon as 4 pilots are on board.
Call +33 (0)4 92 89 11 30 to book.
As an alternative, Taxi Vaccarezza also offer shuttle runs to the take off. Call +33 (0)4 92 89 03 28 to book.
Saint-André-les-Alpes Launch Sites
Le Chalvet take off in Saint-André-les-Alpes | © Aérogliss
Le Chalvet mountain (1609 m) to the north-west of Saint-André dominates the high ground in this part of the Alps. Two launch sites on Le Chalvet, one facing south-west and the other south-east offer take offs into most wind directions.
Le Chalvet – South West Launch – Altitude 1540 m
The south-west facing take-off is the main Le Chalvet launch site and it’s from here that Saint-André’s booming thermal conditions have powered some epic long distance flights. Use the south-west launch from 11 am when the valley winds kick in. The winds build into the afternoon making take-offs tricky for inexperienced pilots and as soon as they combine with the thermals, the south-west launch is blown out. Late afternoon, when the thermals die down again, you can enjoy smooth air ideal for soaring until sunset.
There’s a large area for set up out of the wind and a huge launch zone. Pilots are requested to rig up and then walk across to the take off zone. The take-off is relatively steep but free from obstacles.
Le Chalvet – South & East Launch – Altitude 1540 m
The south and east facing launch sites overlook Saint-André-les-Alpes and the Lac de Castillon and offer straightforward conditions. The hilltop has been purposefully landscaped into a more gentle slope clear of obstructions making it ideal for beginner pilots.
There’s also a north facing launch that you can use for early morning take offs.
Saint-Andre-les-Alpes Landing Sites
Aerogliss landing site at sunset | © Flickr – Olivier Wenger
There are 2 main paragliding landing areas.
Aerogliss Paragliding School (880 m)
St André’s main landing site is a big field at the northern end of the Lac de Castillon. The Aerogliss paragliding school is located at the far end. There are 3 large windsocks clearly visible from the air.
The landing area is huge and suitable for both paragliders and hang gliders. When there’s little wind, landing is straightforward. The dominant wind blows in from the lake towards Saint André and can occasionally be quite strong.
In the heat of the afternoon the field becomes very thermic and the air can be quite punchy, so you need to continually monitor the 3 wind socks as you make your approach.
A northerly or northwesterly can trigger turbulent air as soon as the thermals kick in. When it’s like this, try to land as close as possible to the central windsock nearest Aérogliss.
This is a busy site, so once you’re on the ground, try to gather up your canopy as quickly as possible and move to the edge of the field to fold your wing.
Moriez – Camping M. BOEUF, Aire Naturelle le Pastaire
Located 3 km west of Saint-André-les-Alpes the Moriez landing site is a small field along the N202 immediately east of the Le Pastaire campground. A single windsock marks the western edge of the field.
This is the landing site to aim for if a westerly or northwesterly wind renders the main landing at the lake too turbulent. Generally, it’s a calmer and more predictable landing site than the lake, with the breeze typically channelled down the valley here towards Saint-André. Moriez is also a good backup landing site in case you lose too much height from a south-west launch to make the main landing field.
Watch out for the thorny hedge at the entrance to the field and for parked cars at the far end.
When to go
April to November
The 8 months from April to November is the best time of year to come to Saint-André. Think smooth early morning top to bottoms, punchy thermic flying from late morning, and glorious sunset soaring. April and May can get a fair amount of rain, but typically the showers are short-lived and interspersed with clear spells. The hot summer months of June, July and August is when expert pilots can expect to achieve huge 100 km+ XC flights. September is calmer and less crowded than high summer and good for a first visit.
December to March
Flying days are shorter, the cold winter air is smooth and thermals are more gentle. However, access to the take-offs may be blocked by snow. Mark Taggart, a very experienced pilot who runs a fantastic gite just a few hundred metres from the landing says that October to December is his favourite time of year.
How to get there
Saint-André-les-Alpes is 1 h 42 min driving time (105 km) from Nice Côte d’Azur airport and 1 h 58 min (166 km) from Marseille Provence Airport. With 4 departures every day, the Train des Pignes narrow gorge railway winds its way up through the Maritime Alps from Nice to St-André in 2.5 hours. The journey on public transport from Marseille takes 4 hours and involves a bus to Dignes and then a train to St-André. Alternatively you can hire a car form either Nice or Marseille airports.
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your paragliding trip to Saint-André-les-Alpes, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this article. Happy holidays!
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