Europe, July/August, March/April, May/June, September/October, Travel Guide

Guide to Lake Garda, Italy

Friday 7 February, 2014
The nervous glide out for the start of some SIV action at Lake Garda

The nervous glide out for some SIV action at Lake Garda

WHY GO?
With its predictable winds, Garda has been terrifying and inspiring pilots for years

WHERE IS IT?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Sitting at 1,700m above one of Italy’s great lakes is a giant, grass-topped mountain seemingly built by Mother Nature for paraglider pilots – and cleverly named Monte Baldo by the Italians. In calm air, 1,200m above the security of a lake, pilots practise all the manoeuvres that have always caused palms to sweat at this site. It’s one of the best SIV and acrobatic training sites in the world, but also great for a relaxing boat about with easy top-landing options and truly stunning views.

The landing zone and cable car depart is halfway up Lago di Garda at Malcesine, a small town sitting on the thin line between water and vertical mountains. This is one of the major gateways into the Alps and is famous for its wind.

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The super-consistent Pelèr and Ora winds have been blowing windsurfers and sailing boats back and forth across the lake for ages. Unfortunately, they’ve also pushed many pilots trying to touch down on the man-made postage-stamp landing into the lake.

The “south” take-off works with west winds, and is less than 10 minutes by foot from the top of the cable car. A big windsock indicates the zone, but feel free to use the whole grassy ridge for launching. The “north” take off is for east winds, and is at the extreme northern end of the ridge. It’s a little bit steeper, but still has golf course-quality grass. To get back to the lake, make a quick left after taking off.

FLYING CONDITIONS

Flying Garda is determined by the north wind known as the Pelèr and the south wind, the Ora. Until 10am the Pelèr can be quite strong. Wait for the windsurfers and kite surfers to finish riding the white caps on the opposite side of the lake before heading up. Usually, after 10am the wind quickly changes to the south. The Ora can get very strong at 12 noon and then die down to zero in the evening.

The summer brings the strongest winds – often too strong to fly at midday. Spring, autumn and winter are the best for winds. Judge them from above on the ridge and look at the waves on the lake, since the wind lines can be seen well before they reach the landing zone.

In the afternoon at take-off there are often great soaring conditions when the wind is strongest, around 5pm.

WHEN TO GO
April to October is best. Flying from November to March is good for wind, but there are more clouds and it’s colder.

ALTITUDE
Launch: 1,760m
Landing:60m

HANG GLIDER ACCESS
No access at Monte Baldo, but other sites nearby have HG access

MUST BE FLOWN
Soaring in the afternoon, flying over the lake early morning and at sunset. Some local pilots fly the east side in the morning for some difficult but good XC flying. A short 30km flight in the afternoon is possible along the ridge to the south, but it takes about 45 minutes one way and five minutes back thanks to the Ora.

DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
Always look out for strong winds. Don’t take off to the south/west with north/east wind! Sometimes flying Monte Baldo with foehn is okay, but ask a local pilot first. Always wear a lifejacket, and have a security boat for SIV training or acro.

ACCOMMODATION
Everything from camping to hotels, in every price bracket.

GUIDES AND COURSES
Michael Nesler and Gudrun Öchsl offers safety and acro clinics at www.profly.org.

TAKE THE FAMILY
Lago di Garda offers plenty of activities, culture, and almost every sport you can think of, including biking, hiking, climbing, sailing, swimming and diving. August brings lots of tourists and it gets pretty crowded. The nightlife is great. There are lots of bars, restaurants, parties in the summer and discos at the south end of the lake.

WEATHER INFO
For the general information check out www.ilmeteo.it. For better wind information make sure to look at Paganella – a peak close by.

Claudio Benedetti, president of the local paragliding club, is always ready to give detailed advice on weather conditions and flight possibilities from his Hotel Ideal. He’ll also lend you a lifejacket for free.

GETTING THERE
Fly to Verona, then take public transport during the day to Garda or rent a car. It’s easier to have your own car, but parking is a bit limited at the landing zone. In the summer season there’s an hourly bus from the landing zone to the cable car. If there’s no bus, pilots usually organise at the landing zone, or it’s a 20-minute walk.

USEFUL CONTACTS
General info 
Paragliding Malcesine
Tandem paragliding
Paragliding school
Hotel Ideal


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