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Guide to Salzburg, Austria

Monday 17 February, 2014
Andy Froetscher at the start of the X-Alps. Photo: Vitek Ludvik / Red Bull Content Pool

Andy Froetscher at the start of the X-Alps. Photo: Vitek Ludvik / Red Bull Content Pool

Indulge your Red Bull X-Alps fantasies and fly the Gaisberg, the first turnpoint on the world’s toughest paragliding adventure race.


The modest Gaisberg launch doesn’t need to deliver big distances to give gratifying flights, although it can deliver you on an adventure into the heart of the northern Alps.

There are two roads up the Gaisberg, but the best strategy is to head to the LZ, which neighbours the Aigen campground to the south of Salzburg. Park along the edge of the LZ and check out the information board for the encyclopedic list of rules concerning airspace and no-landing areas. It’s as well to familiarise yourself with the LZ from the ground because from the air it’s easy to miss how sunken it is among the rotor-producing trees that surround it on three flanks.

There are no formal shuttles, but the locals and tandem pilots are friendly and generously offer rides. At the top you can pay your €5 daily visitor’s membership in the bar. Airspace rules mean that you have to call up the Salzburg International Airport (+43 5 1703 6555) to request permission to launch. In practice it’s always granted but they like to know when there are wings in the air so they can keep the planes on approach to the airport clear of the area.

From the Gaisberg you have access to the lower Alpine foothills that provide a good acclimatisation zone to the active air, as well as plenty of technical XC potential before taking on the big mountains from the nearby Trattberg and Werfenweng launches closer to the main spine of the Alps.

This is the start for the Red Bull X-Alps so you can be reassured it has good XC potential. There are three launches on Gaisberg, facing every way except south. If you’re flying out towards the town and the LZ don’t cross the railway line or you’ll be infringing airspace.

To climb out from under the 5,000ft airport CTA ceiling you have to bench up in steps while you progress over the back and away from the town. It usually takes two to three thermals to obtain vertical freedom, but then the Alps are your oyster.

The spread of low alpine foothills is the perfect playground for flat and FAI triangles in whatever direction your imagination takes you. Straight-line flights can create arduous retrieves as the roads snake around the valleys.

Spring for the booming thermals.

Launch: 1,250m
Landing: 440m
Average cloudbase: 2,300m rising up as you head towards the bigger mountains

Hang gliders love this site because of the easy drive up. Set-up space is ample on all the launches. Hang glider records have been set from here, going right over the main spine of the Alps and back. Look out for local legend Tom Weissenberger on his Moyes RS4 who flies this hill regularly.

Don’t expect to be clocking up triple figure distances from the Gaisberg, but the landscape provides a freedom to explore where you like. Head up the Salzach Valley towards the permanently snowy peaks and turn east after Trattberg towards Ramsau for some classic scenic Austrian flying. For bigger distances start from Werfenweng then head into the high ground.

Southerly winds can bring a Foehn effect, although here they call it Foehnisch – little Foehn – because it’s doesn’t have such a pronounced impact. Nonetheless, if there’s a pressure difference between Bolzen in Italy and Innsbruck of more than 4hPa, take advice from local pilots before launching.

Salzburg’s Camping Aigen backs onto the LZ so you can roll out of your tent and hitch a lift straight up. It’s a little remote so tricky to reach with public transport but beautifully set in the hilly forest. Salzburg has the usual range of accommodation from hostels to five star hotels.

www.austriafly.at offer courses and tandem flights from Gaisberg and Werfenweng

Salzburg is a beautiful town. Stroll down the cute main street in the old town for a bit of shopping therapy, or join the sing-along Sound of Music tour. You can also tour the Salzburg Salt Mines which give the town its name.

Windguru or any website using GFS modelling provides an accurate prediction of the weather, but things can change quickly so it’s unwise to make plans too far in advance based on forecasts.

For Foehn warning check www.goo.gl/PohOh0.

Salzburg has an international airport. Vienna and Munich are two hours away. Salzburg’s bus network is good, but you’ll need a car to get to launches and campsites.

Weather and webcam on the Gaisberg

Rules for flying the Gaisberg

Weather and webcam on Werfenweng

Salzburg International Airport: +43 5 1703 6555

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

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