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Guide to Greifenburg, Austria

Sunday 9 February, 2014
Closed circuits are a good bet here. Photo: Burkhard Martens

Closed circuits are a good bet here. Photo: Burkhard Martens

Great potential for XC pilots of all levels. Whether you are looking for your first 50km out-and-return, are an experienced pilot out for a six-hour day, or want to join the 200km club, this place has it all.


Greifenburg lies at 620m in the Ober Drautal in southern Austria, close to the Italian border. Due to its topography the area gets very little valley wind, producing reliable and comfortable flying. Lots of dairy farms provide large grassy fields to land in all along the Drautal and Mölltal, so it’s extremely HG friendly too.

Plan on one big flight a day rather than multiple short ones. The main launch of Embergeralm is at 1,740m. You’ll find nine-seater taxi shuttles at the LZ carpark on any flyable day. There is a higher launch at 1,840m for southeast winds, which requires a15-minute walk.

Most routes here are closed circuit, conveniently ending where they started. Unbroken south-facing ridges shoot off in all directions with very short crossings in between. This allows pilots to stay high and eat kilometres with more ease than other technical spots such as Zillertal and Kössen. Routes here are only limited by your imagination and tactics.

It’s not mellow, but definitely manageable for pilots who fly actively. Heading north to the Mölltal sees you in the midst of the main ridge of the Alps. Expect thermals to range from 1m/s to over 7m/s depending on time of day and time of year.

Best in spring or early summer, but XC possible from April through to September

Launch: 1,750m
Landing: 600m
Average cloudbase: between 2,200-4,200m

Very hang glider friendly. The Embergeralm launch is split 50/50 with paragliders. There is a small wooden ramp and huge set-up area. It’s extremely popular with hangies thanks to the drive-up launch and the countless out-landing possibilities.

The shuttle taxis happily take hang gliders.

For beginners the 50km milk run around the eastern end of the Drautal can be comfortably done when base reaches 2,500m. Simple yet challenging and some awesome mountains to cut your teeth on. It finishes with a long crossing to the bridge over the Wiesensee, from where you’re slung-shot down the line to the LZ.

The highest mountain in Austria, the 3,789m Grossglockner is just a stone’s throw away from the most northerly turnpoint used for the classic 120km FAI triangle around this area. A lonely but inspiring jaunt through the heart of Red Bull X-Alps territory.

For those with stamina the 200km plus out-and-return to Brenner and back is mainly attempted in early spring when the valley winds are light.

There are some evil leeside areas that catch unwary pilots. It pays to have basic alpine flying knowledge here.

With a north wind the 20km crossing above Lienz can produce powerful sink and an ugly leeside climb at the end.

Stay high over the Mölltal to avoid its powerful valley winds, and don’t attempt any leeside heroics if you do get flushed into the valley.

Choose from budget farmhouse rooms to glamorous wellness spas. The camping ground at the LZ also has self-catering apartments.

Ex-British team pilot and longtime guide and instructor Kelly Farina has been based in the area since 1995. He runs XC courses and guides through www.austrianarena.com.

The swimming lake at the LZ and Jungle Gym will keep the kids entertained. Try a wellness spa for pampering, or pick one of the well-marked trails to hike, mountain bike and horse ride.

The area is protected from the strong valley winds that make other Alpine areas less comfortable to fly. Local flights can still be made with north winds that would blow out other southern Alpine sites.

Get the lowdown on foehn and storm warnings

The best for the Kärnten and Ost Tirol area is www.flug-wetter.at. It’s in German and free but you need to sign up.

Accurate soundings, weather stations and forecasting in German at www.zamg.at.

Klagenfurt is one hour away by car, Venice and Munich are three hours away. Salzburg is two hours by train.

Schools: www.airtime.nl or www.bluesky.at
Club: www.drachenflieger.at
Campsite: www.fliegercamp.at

• Got news? Send it to us at news@xccontent.local

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