Note: Some of the small images are linked to larger versions.
Welcome in Annecy!
Annecy is in France, close to the Switzerland border, not so far from Italy and Germany.
The road (distance) around the lake is nearly 25 miles.
The Tour of the Lake gives you a first XC opportunity of 30 miles (approximately) of circumference. It is the very beginning of the French Northern Alps where Mont Blanc, 14,421', is only 50 miles away. The lake elevation must be roughly 1350' above sea level and gentle mountains surrounding the lake are between 4800' to 7056'.
This natural environment makes of Annecy and its area a great spot for paragliders. Pilots from all over the world come and fly in Annecy. Lots of competitions stand here during summer time too.
These past 4 days, temperatures were around 90 degrees and the water is getting close to 75°. Real bummer cummies and ceilings were approximately between 6000' and 8000'!
In reference to the map, north direction is approximately like this: While flying, Mont Blanc will show you the east direction!
On the very center of this picture, you can see the Dents de Lanfon (area #2). Further on the right with snowfields is La Tournette 7056'. View from the Dents de Lanfon (area #2) we can see now the Semnoz ridge (area #4) and the Roc des Bufs in area #5.
Lets cut the lake in 5 main areas:
AREA #1 or MONTMIN LAUNCH (also named Col [pass] de la Forclaz)
3600' above sea level, Montmin launch is the highest launch spot where you can drive by regular car. From the parking lot, its only 30 seconds walk to get to the launch area. Its also the main launch of the lake, the most famous because of its unbeatable view of the lake.
Depending on your wing glide ratio, its at least a 10 to 15 minutes sled to the Montmin LZ, on the very foot of the figure 1 of the Map 2. Montmin launches are based on the O of Forclaz. See Map 2, area #1.
There are 6 launches at Montmin, shared by hang & paragliders. If you want to come and fly over here be ready to share the space with dozens of gliders in greatest summer weekend days. Unfortunately Annecy is victim of its success. When thermals are big and a little bit everywhere around the lake, being numerous is not a big deal. But when theyre getting smaller, there could be troubles. Best wind directions for Montmin launches are west from SW to NW, knowing that NW is ideal.
The wind at the Montmin is usually NW (coming from Annecy to the end of the lake) and it could be strong time to time. But nothing to scare an Oregon pilot!
Montmin launches are usually the departure for spectacular XCs through the Alps. Best local pilots starts here, fly then over La Tournette 7056' peak just behind the Montmin ridge, then leave the lake toward Mont Blanc or other directions. I just made it for the very first time 2 days ago. That was magic!
At Montmin, you will mostly fly in the lake breeze, mixed with thermals, then youll get some alo' winds.
AREA #2 or PLANFAIT LAUNCH
2946' above sea level, Planfait launch is the second highest spot around Annecy and is also drivable with a regular car. Bigger parking lot, youll get to the launch area in no time.
There is only one mainly paraglider launch at Planfait. Because of the beautiful and majestic rock and cliff above the launch, Les Dents de Lanfon (the Teeths of Lanfon), this launch is usually crowded and not always friendly in summer time, I must say.
View From Planfait Launch. We can see the Semnoz ridge on the right (area #4) and the Roc des Bufs ridge in the center (area #5).
Les Dents de Lanfon are the first part of a scenic flight. Once youre up there, you can cruise to the Lanfonnet, the second right part of this ridge on Map 2. Once at the summit of the teeth, you will be at 5100'.
Les Dents de Lanfon are another good departure for XCs. From there you can either go:
East / NE on another teeth called La Dent du Cruet, then go to the 8 miles of the Parmelan cliffs XC.
North on Area 3, called Le Veyrier close to Annecy city. You will fly above the Middle Ages Castle of Menthon Saint Bernard.
The castle is just in the middle of Area #2 and #3. Behind you can see the long ridge of Le Roc des Bufs (The Bull Rock) in area #5.
SW above the lake, toward the Area 5. Its one of the classic crossings called the little tour of the lake. You start at Planfait, area #2. Cross to area #5 and fly all over the Roc des Bufs in mainly ridge wind, then land at Montmin LZ, area #1 ([XX] miles XC). A longer way of the Little Tour will take you the Montmin launch, area #1. You cross then to Lanfonnet, then go to Les Dents de Lanfon in area #2. You cross over the lake toward Le Roc des Bufs direction and land at Montmin LZ. Its a [XX] miles XC.
SE toward La Tournette mountain.
Close to the area #5, the Castle of Duingt faces Planfait Launch and Lanfons teeth. The launch area is rather big and around 20 pilots can setup at the same time their wings and get ready to take off.
Wind direction at Planfait launch is mostly NW. But when it is crossed coming from north with rotors.
Like Montmin LZ, Planfait LZ is rather narrow but long! The red line shows a power line and the red cross shows a private property where the owner is fed up of helping beginners descending of his roof!
The first part of the field, atterro, shows the area where you want to land. The pliage area is where you will fold your wing.
Because of the breeze of the lake, the last 600' descent over that LZ is quite unstable. The penetration is bad. Big ears are recommended.
Montmin and Planfait LZs are the 2 official landing zones. There are lots of fields in the area of the lake where you might land. Choose one where the grass has been cut in case of XC.
AREA #3 or VEYRIER MOUNTAIN
There are no launches at Veyrier du Lac. It is just a transit mountain where good pilots take a final thermal on its lee side before crossing to the Semnoz on the other bank of Annecy, area #4.
All along the Veyrier ridge, there are no LZs either!! But you can be safe if you can reach the lee side of this mountain where lots of fields will wait for you if you cant return or cross.
I can tell now that this transition is one of the most stressful because its the longest one: 4 miles, roughly. If you cant make it directly from a ridge to another, fly over the roofs of Annecy city and catch thermals as much as you can. They may help you to go on area #4.
On Map 2, you can see a line splitting the ridge in two equal parts. Actually, it shows the former line of the cable car going up to the summit. And it is also the spot of one of the best thermals of Veyrier ridge!
Above this ridge, youll have one of the best views of Annecy. You will catch the lake breeze, as well as thermals.
AREA #4 or SEMNOZ MOUNTAIN
You are now halfway on your Great Tour of the lake. Depending on weather conditions, Le Semnoz is mainly ridge wind.
Like I said, transition from area 3 to area 4 is pretty long. If youre too low at the beginning there are lots of chances that you will reach the foot of Le Semnoz only 300 to 450 feet high at its very beginning. And no field for an LZ. The higher, the better!
Then start a long climb in dynamic wind and sometime comes little thermals. Le Semnoz is quite flat where thermals are not big and strong. I havent been successful yet to fly it entirely and last time I had to land and hitchhike to come back to my car.
AREA #5 or LE ROC DES BUFS MOUNTAIN
Le Roc des Bufs is a fairly impressive mountain. In fact its a spine! The beginning of this ridge starts close to the lake near the Castle of Duingt. Over there, its only 300' high. Coming from Les Dents de Lanfon, you need to leave them at around 5100' high otherwise you will cross and arrive pretty low at Le Roc des Bufs. But there are lots of fields over there!
Le Roc des Bufs is half ridge and thermal winds mountain. You will get the lake breeze at the beginning, then thermals on its middle.
Le Roc des Bufs is the beginning of new XC adventures. It can take you to another range of mountain call Les Bauges near Chambéry city.
I have taken the following panorama from Planfait launch. So you have the west view of the lake. This long ridge in front of you is Le Semnoz. It starts in Annecy on its lowest side, rougly 300' only! The ridge on the right of the picture is the right side of Le Veyrier Mountain (area #3) on Map 1. You can see Annecy far away, where you want to catch good thermals in order to pass Le Semnoz! Obviously today, there are some good ones!
Once youve reached the summit of Le Semnoz, you can easily cross to area #5, Le Roc des Bufs. Usually youll have the wind in your back. Coming from Le Semnoz, youll be directly on the middle of Le Roc des Bufs. You will have no problem, flying its summit, and landing to Montmin LZ. We can easily imagine the crossing from Les Dents de Lanfon to Le Roc de Bufs. Youll be right in the middle of the lake and itll be magic. I guaranty it!! You will also fly in the lake breeze only where youll notice your glide ratio getting worst and worst. Will I make it to the very beginning of Roc des Bufs is an inevitable question youll ask yourself. Like I said if your trip ends there, no worries! Its full of fields!
If not, lets fly this rock spine and get another 3000' high before a final landing.
Observe the little ridge on the left side of the beginning of Roc des Bufs. There is a launch area there, just over Duingt community. Its a 20 minute hike. When its too crowded on main launches like Planfait, I usually go there. Once I took 150', I fly toward Roc des Bufs, fly to its summit, come back and cross toward Les Dents de Lanfon, area #2.
In fact there are lots of wild launch spots all over the 5 areas. Ill show them to you when you come here.
Well, I am afraid I gave you too much information / frustration of this beautiful and magic spot. You understood that Annecy is more than one spot. Its a combo.
In fact this area during summer time is just perfect. If you want to be outside practicing all kind of sports, its the place to be. From hiking to climbing, bicycling, swimming, flying, what else, skiing you can do lots of things, its a whole package!
Flying period starts in April to September. May and June are the best, July and August are the most crowded months. People are coming from all over the world to fly this part of the planet. So, what are you waiting for?
Like I said before I left Oregon, I will remain your French connection if you come over. Once your trip is planned, let me know through that email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ill do my best to make your flights as easy as possible
Hope to hear from you soon.