Anna's dream of flying
It was almost exactly one year ago that I had left my hometown in Chiemgau for a new job in Saalbach Hinterglemm. New people, new adventures and new experiences; these were all the things I was eagerly looking forward to. While at work, I got to know Florian Hasenauer from “Fly’n Soul”, who provides tandem paragliding services. So, this is the story in which I finally fulfil my dream of flying and make my way up into the air! Join me on my first paragliding flight!
It’s morning and the weather is perfect. An absolutely brilliant day with plenty of sunshine and blue skies, only occasionally a little cloud seems to have wandered away from its flock. I drive to the meeting point at the 12er Express lift. Arriving at the parking place, I can already see the first handful of paragliders up in the air. Whew, my stomach is already starting to feel a little funny seeing all the action from down here, knowing that soon, it will be me up there. A “Hi Anna” quickly pulls me back out of my thoughts. There is my pilot with a few other pilots and passengers at the Fly’n Soul “bungalow”.
Flight preparations in the valley
Flo introduces me to Daniel and the remainder of the pilots, who welcome me wholeheartedly. Now, Flo is giving me a warm pair of trousers, as well as a helmet. Unfortunately, my shoes are not very suitable for flying, so he hands me a pair of rental shoes as well. That’s really practical, especially when you’ve just gotten off the slopes and have opted for a flying session spontaneously. I get a fitting pair of goggles too and then Flo checks if everything fits one more time. “So, let’s get started,” is all he says next.
Together with the other pilots and the passengers, we make our way to the Westgipfelbahn lift, which takes us to our launch spot. Inside the gondola, Flo and Daniel check the weather report one more time, as well as the lift stations’ live webcam transmissions. Curiously, I ask Flo how long he’s been flying and how many flights he has already done. Flo smiles, because he can tell that I’m feeling a little hesitant, and answers: “I’ve been flying since I was 15 and at the moment it’s around 600 tandem paragliding flights per year.” I’m quite impressed when I hear those numbers. I continue to ask whether they fly no matter the weather and Flo answers, “The safety of our passengers is the number one priority in this job. The weather conditions have to be perfect. There have been many times where we’ve had to return from the mountain by lift because there was just too much wind. In a case like that, it doesn’t matter whether it’s sunny and there isn’t a single cloud in the sky. Daniel and I are a well-coordinated team and we’re always on the same page when it comes to situations like that.” The longer I chat with the pilots, the calmer I feel about what I’m about to do.
Butterflies and premium panoramas
Having arrived on top of the summit, it’s only a few more metres to our launch spot. From here, you’ve already got a magnificent view of Saalbach Hinterglemm and beyond. How is it all going to look from above? I have to admit, I can feel the nervousness creeping up on me, it being moments before my first paragliding flight. On the launch spot, Flo pulls two harnesses out of his backpack that look just like backpacks themselves — only with way more straps and carabiners. He helps me inside, closes all the buckles and checks everything one more time. Now, he pulls the canopy out of the other backpack and places it across the launch site. Flo holds onto the ends of the suspension lines and briefly lets some air into the top to inflate it, which spreads the whole canopy out it in front of us. Wow, that was quick! Flo takes all the different lines and attaches the canopy’s straps to himself, then I’m attached to his harness as well. My knees are getting weak, but there is no turning back for me now.
Losing the ground under my feet
Flo explains that we’ve got very good winds and that all I would have to do is take a few steps forward as soon as he says. Then, everything goes pretty fast. The canopy gets inflated by the wind and soars up above us. I feel that I’m getting pulled back a little, but after a few steps, we’re already in the air, flying past marvelling skiers. I can’t resist screaming out in excitement. It feels as if you’re losing the ground under your feet. Quietly and comfortably, we glide across the Glemmtal valley and enjoy the beautiful view of the snowy winter landscape. You feel incredibly free up here when you get to just let yourself go for a moment. The nervousness is totally gone, and I am in a perpetual state of awe about how small everything looks from up here. People wave at us as we fly across mountain pasture huts and skiing slopes.
Throughout our flight, Florian takes pictures of us doing funny poses and movements using an action-cam. I was even given the chance to steer the canopy for a little while. Despite all the anticipation, I never would have thought that my tandem paragliding flight would be this much fun. After a good half an hour, we navigate toward our landing site. Landing is just as quick and uncomplicated as taking off, which wasn’t exactly sorcery. All I have to do is briefly lift my feet and a few moments later I already land in the snow with my well-padded harness — the canopy falls down on the ground right behind us. Back on the ground, I can’t stop grinning and feeling ecstatic. I am so happy that I finally got the chance to fulfil my dream of flying here in Saalbach Hinterglemm. An amazing experience that I can recommend to anyone!
Infected by the paragliding virus
“You’ve really scored your dream job here, haven’t you, Flo?” I ask my pilot. “Turning your hobby into your profession is great. However, you should never forget how big the responsibility is that you always carry with you. The best thing about tandem paragliding is seeing the excitement on our guests’ faces.” Can’t argue with that! Florian has truly been able to realise his dreams during the past few years here.
In the meanwhile, a year has passed and that feeling of freedom, weightlessness and peace that reigns in the air still hasn’t let go of me. I want to experience it all over again and have therefore decided to go up into the air by myself. Last summer, I got my paragliding pilot’s licence and now I am able to head onto the launch site together with the other pilots. I am just so glad that my dream of flying has finally come true for me.
If you’re interested in giving tandem paragliding a try, then you can find out more about your possibilities in the Home of Lässig right here: