The Coupe Icare is the world’s biggest free-flight festival. Held in the French Alps it usually attracts up to 80,000 visitors over five days to explore the worlds of paragliding, paramotoring and hang gliding.
The festival was cancelled last year because of the pandemic, but this year it is going ahead from 14-19 September 2021. However, it’s going to be different – here’s what you need to know.
What is happening?
1. It will be for pilots only. The 2021 Coupe Icare is going ahead, but it will be pilots only – and you will need to pre-register to attend. General public and spectators are being discouraged. This is to keep numbers to a manageable level.
2. There will be a testival. There will be a chance for pilots to test fly equipment over two days. The testival will take place on Tues/Wed 14/15 September. So if you want to test fly a new glider, this is when to go. It costs €10 to register and take part and you will need to pre-authorise a €2,000 deposit on your credit card when you register (that is not a typo). Pilots will have access to the funicular and free shuttles. Brands that have committed to the testival to date include: Air Design; AIR3 Flight Instruments; AirDesign; Air G; Davinci; Dudek; Flow; ITV; Kortel; Mac Para; Mipfly; Nearbirds; Ribs; Niviuk; Nova; Sky; Skybean; Stodeus; Supair; Swing; Syride; Triple Seven; Way. No Ozone, Skywalk or Advance. Keep an eye on the list here.
3. You can free fly. Paraglider and paramotor leisure pilots will be allowed to free-fly every day. Usually this is heavily controlled because of all the show flights, but this year you will be allowed to fly when and where you want.
4. The trade fair is happening. As usual, the world’s biggest paragliding and paramotoring expo will take place over four days, from Thursday 16 Sept to Sunday 19 Sept. In an informal survey we conducted we reckon the majority of brands will be there, although many will be represented by their French dealers rather than the main manufacturer.
5. There will be films. The film festival will take place from Tuesday 14 to Saturday 18 September and is due to show a massive collection of free-flight films, from 2020 and 2021.
6. The Icare Folies is happening. Expect to see lots of outdoor circus acts, bands and roving entertainments throughout the site.
7. There will be hot air balloons. Early morning flying over the weekend, Friday 17 to Sunday 19 September.
What is not happening?
1. No fancy dress. The famous fancy dress parade is not happening at all, so no need to turn up in your best tutu.
2. No fans. There will be no crowds of public spectators, either up at the take-offs or down in the valley.
3. No Lumbin. Everything festival-like that usually happens at the landing zone in Lumbin in the valley is cancelled. It’s just a place to land this year.
4. No shows. There will be no air shows or display flights.
5. No kidzone. There will be no dedicated kids’ area, but children are still welcome to attend.
How do I register?
To access the Coupe Icare you must hold an e-ticket, on your phone or you can print it out.
Your e-ticket will be checked on entry and you will be given an electronic bracelet. When you register you can pay to pre-load this with money to spend at the bar and the food stalls. If you don’t spend all your money it will be refunded.
Your bracelet will also hold details of your Covid pass. In France this is called the ‘Pass Sanitaire’, or Health Pass. When you buy a ticket online through the Coupe Icare website you must tick a checkbox confirming you understand that a Covid health pass is required.
Details of the French Covid health pass system and how it ties in with other EU countries are here. In brief, you must be vaccinated, have a valid PCR or antigen test, or have proof that you have recovered from Covid.
Day tickets and full festival passes cost from €6 to €30 and can be bought online at the Coupe Icare website here.
What about the weather?
Organisers have promised that the weather is going to be perfect, with high cloudbase and light winds 😉