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Guide to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Austria

Wednesday 5 February, 2014
High alpine flying. Photo:

High alpine flying. Photo:

It’s a sensible place to get an introduction to Alpine flying.


Garmisch-Partenkirchen sits at the foot of the highest mountain in Germany, the 2,962m Zugspitze. Being right on the northern fringe of the Alps, you get high alpine flying next to flatlands. Easily understandable valley wind systems, albeit strong, make it a sensible introduction to Alpine flying. On the good days you can fly south into the Austrian Alps, and with skill and determination even come back to land locally.

The main flying takes place from the Wank or the Osterfelder lift stations. The cabin lifts offer paraglider passes. The launches face south, east and north-east (Wank) and east and north (Osterfelder). Another launch at the Kreuzeck lift station faces north into the Bavarian wind. The easterly or westerly component decides which launch to use – ask other pilots waiting at the valley station.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a centre for Alpine tourism, with good skiing in the winter and all mountain sports in the summer. The clientèle is perhaps slightly older than in, say, Avoriaz, so expect more hiking than downhill mountain biking, and more cafés than nightclubs. Finally, don’t be put off by the name of the mountain at the east end of the valley. It’s one of the best mountains in Germany for thermal flying.

Strong winds in the valley and thermals in the season, but good afternoon glass-off. Flyable all year round.

April until October.

Wank: Launch 1,720m, landing 1,020m in the Gschwandtner Bauer LZ
Osterfelder: Launch 2,020m, landing 700m
Kreuzeck: Launch 1,650m, landing  700m in the Osterfelder LZ
Cloudbase: Up to 3,000m in spring, 2,200m in summer, 1,800m in autumn

Yes, by both the Wank and Osterfelder cable cars.

Launch from the Kreuzeck, using dynamic lift with embedded thermals to jump onto the Zugspitze massif, follow the rock west while climbing all the way, and top up over the Panorama restaurant on top of the Zugspitze at 2,900m.

The north wind can get really strong, and most people do NOT fly across the Garmisch valley and on to the Kramer (the mountain facing south, on the north side of the valley). It works well but is in the lee, and requires good pilot skills.

If the weather’s looking good but the tandems aren’t flying, there’s probably a good reason for it.

Note that you must launch early from Wank (11.30am in summer) as the Bavarian wind tends to reach the altitude of launch at about midday and put it in the lee.

From camping to five stars. See

Gleitschirmschule Garmisch-Partenkirchen

It’s the Alps. Skiing in winter, a summer tobogganing course, scenic gorges, hiking .. there’s plenty to do.

It’s the northern Alps, so gets plenty of rain. Check the forecast before committing to a lengthy trip.

Fly to Munich then catch the airport train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen via Central Station every hour or so. Once in Garmisch-Partenkirchen a little hiking will be required to get to the lifts. But you can also use the Zugspitzbahn train.

The local school, run by paraglider pioneer Michi Brunner, is called Gleitschirmschule Garmisch-Partenkirchen

UP Paragliders have their home base at the foot of the Kreuzeck and Osterfelder lift, and offer demo wings from their range to visiting pilots.

The local club is the Werdenfelser Drachen und Gleitschirmflieger

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