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Guide to Greolieres, France

Wednesday 5 February, 2014
Fred works his way up while, left, Cross Country’s Charlie King has another hard day at the office. Photos: Fredrik Gustafsson

Cross Country’s Charlie King has another hard day at the office. Photos: Fredrik Gustafsson


Here the boast of a protected microclimate is true!


Less than an hour’s drive from Nice international airport, the Provencal village of Gréolières sits below the bulk of the Cheiron mountain. Here, where the sun shines for 300 days of the year, flying is possible year-round for pilots of all abilities.

The south-facing take-offs on the Cheiron are named after their top-to-bottom heights in metres from the landing field: 300, 600, 700, and you can fly from the summit at 1,778m. The local paragliding school runs a shuttle service from the landing field up a 4×4 track to the 300, and in the summer it also shuttles pilots up the dry ski piste on the north side to the 600/700 launches. These tracks are forbidden for private users, so leg-power is the only other way up. However, a morning hike-and-fly on the Cheiron is something to enjoy, with medieval ruins, chamois and ibex to complement the glorious views.

There are several other sites nearby: Gourdon, to the south, offers good winter cross country flying; Col de Bleyne to the west is a much easier launch pad for cross country flights; Lachens is the place to go in a westerly.

Even with a northerly meteo wind, the south side of the Cheiron is flyable in the southerly thermal breezes. There are thermals all year round, and these can be strong in the spring and summer.

All year. October and November have the least reliable weather.

300 Launch: 1,060m
600 Launch: 1,500m
700 Launch: 1,555m
Summit: 1,740m
Landing: 800m
Cloudbase: 2,300m

No drive-to launch. Col de Bleyne and Gourdon, 30 minutes’ drive away, are better options.

The 15km out-and-return to Coursegoules village to the east is straightforward on a reasonable day, but the site is not actually the easiest to get away from. Col de Bleyne is better for XC, or Gourdon for winter XCs. Having said that, Luc Armant’s 246km triangle from the summit of the Cheiron in May 2011 was one of the highest-scoring flights ever in the French league.

Avoid flying in a westerly, as this puts the landing field in the lee of the village and can signify a mistral, which is likely to be, or become, strong.
Wind on top can be strong in the summer thermals – launch early or late. The 300 is generally launchable all day.
There’s airspace above the Cheiron, so check your map.

The Foulon hotel
La Maison du Loup – Tel +33 (0)787 005 105
Gite du Cheiron
Villa Regain B&B: Tel +33 (0)4 89 24 66 94
Ulric Jessop runs a self-catering apartment near St Auban (40 mins away from Gréolières, 20 mins from Col de Bleyne): www.pottyplace.com
Nearest campsite is in St Auban: www.camping-saintauban.com

Choose from walking, trail running, rock climbing, cycling, mountain biking, canyoning, swimming or horse riding, and that’s just for starters. In winter you can ski at Gréolières-les-Neiges – or try out the high ropes course in summer. For day trips visit the Verdon gorge or the caves at St Cezaire, or explore Nice, Cannes or Antibes. The Côte d’Azur is only an hour away.

Summers are usually very warm, with temperatures reaching around 26C. Winters can be cold with snow but clear blue skies and sunshine. October sees the most rainfall on average.
Check the weather links at www.pottyplace.com and find the thermal forecast on www.augredelair.fr.

Fly to Nice and hire a car – it’s difficult to explore the area without one. However, getting to Gréolières by bus is possible and cheap (one euro), with a regular service from Nice airport to Chateauneuf/Pre du Lac or Grasse and an on-request service (telephone 0 800 06 01 06) to Gréolières from there.

Cumulus (school/tandem flights/shuttle bus), English spoken
Parapente Cote d’Azur (tandem flights)
Ascendance (school/tandem flights), English spoken, based at Gourdon
Au Gre de l’Air (club)

The FFVL (French free flight federation) broadcasts wind information from balises at several sites. Tune your radio to 143.9875.

Read about some other sites in the Alpes Maritimes area, here.

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