That Time I Ran Off a Mountain – Paragliding in Slovenia
Was this really going to happen? Was I going to make my way to the top of Mount Vogel in Slovenia…and then run off the edge? Well, that was my plan anyway. If the weather would let me. I was going paragliding.
Paragliding is one of those adventure sports that develops in the mountains like the Swiss Alps. It looks like a cross between hang gliding and skydiving. You have a lightweight fabric wing, which looks something like a parachute connected to a harness with a mass of lines running to left and right controls for the pilot. The idea is that air makes it’s way through the wing’s channels giving you lift and forward direction. With the right conditions a pilot could stay up for hours. Our plan was maybe 20 minutes.
But Would it Actually Happen?
The season and immediate weather didn’t seem to be in my favour. I like traveling in the shoulder season because there are fewer tourists but it’s a double edged sword. Fewer tourists also means it can be harder to book activities. I would be the only one paragliding on this day and we wouldn’t really know right up until take-off whether the weather would do-operate.
There are three things that’ll ground your paragliding dreams: rain, bad wind, and cloud cover. It rained the first two days I was in Slovenia and it seemed cloudy when I got on the bus from Ljubljana to make my way to Bohinj. I hoped I wouldn’t be making the 2h journey for nothing.
A ridiculously good looking pilot named Brane from 3glav Adventures got out of a van to meet me as I got off the bus. He told me that the wind for the lower altitude trip I’d booked wasn’t looking good. You need a headwind to take off, much like a plane, and in that spot, it was a tailwind. But the higher altitude take-off point looked good. It would cost an extra €30 for the gondola ride and other expenses for that location though. In for a penny, in for a pound right? It would be a longer ride down and Brane assured me it would be worth it. Ok, Let’s do it.
After checking again about cloud cover and wind conditions we got the ok and headed up the Mount Vogel gondola. Up and up and up and up. We then hopped in a truck and were taken even higher up the mountain, to the top of the chair lift – it’s some of the best skiing in Slovenia in winter. In total, 1500+ meters above where we started. My ears popped at least once. Oh boy.
When I saw the take-off spot it really started to sink in. It was a gentle slope for maybe 50 feet and then…nothing. My pilot unpacked the gear and started to prep the wing while I tweeted “brb, going to run off a mountain now.”
This was the part of the whole thing that made me most nervous. I was ok with being lifted, like when parasailing, but the thought of having to leap gave me pause. So before I booked anything I turned to YouTube and Googled “Slovenia paragliding take-off” to see what was really what. It did not involve jumping and hoping the wing would inflate properly. It seemed like a much more gentle running, a slight lift, and then, well, gliding.
Gut Check Time
Helmets on, harnesses secured, GoPro and selfie stick in hand, it was gut check time.
“It’s important that when I say, 1, 2, 3, you run. Don’t stop, and don’t sit down,” Brane explained. I could do that. Run, don’t sit. As he secured my harness to his, the nerves showed up. “Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap!” But there wasn’t much time to dwell on it. He gave the lines a tug and the wing lifted into the sky over us. “1…2…3…run.” It was more of a jog than a sprint but I ran until I felt a slight upward tug on the harness and there was no land under my feet, only sky. It hard to really wrap your head around heights once you get past a certain point. Hanging off the CN Tower at 356m was really no riskier than doing the same thing at say, 100 feet. Either way, a fall would mean splat. But the views are so much better 1100 feet up so you might as well go big or go home.
We spotted a mountain goat grazing and then bolting down the hillside. The lake below was so calm it looked like glass. It was magical. It would’ve been quiet except for the whoosh of wind in your ears. We were travelling at 40km/her after all. “What do you think? It’s ok?” All I could manage was a breathless “Wow!” The boat on the lake looked like a bath toy. The people walking the water’s edge, miniatures on a train set. I didn’t want to ever come down. Is this what birds feel like?
We glided over the lake and then did a turn. “Ahhhh!” I shrieked. I don’t like it when planes bank and I wasn’t a huge fan of paragliding banking either. It was scary but also a bit fun like an amusement park ride. If that ride was a kilometre above the ground.
I was in charge of the selfie stick and I took a couple of short videos and a lot of photos but I just couldn’t get over looking at my feet dangling so high over a little Slovenian town. Even though we’d been in the air for something like 15 or 20 minutes it felt like mere seconds. I wasn’t done yet, but it it was getting time to land.
Coming Back to Earth
We went into what felt to me like a terrifying spiral but I’m sure to Brane, a pro who does this up to 7 times a day in high season, it was a nice controlled reduction in height. Either way, I shrieked again and closed my eyes. I’m a wimp.
Landing instructions were again simple and straightforward. “When your feet touch the ground, run until I say stop.” I was worried it might be a hard bump but it was as gentle as hopping off a bench. Tourists were in the parking lot with phones pointed in our direction. Funny knowing that I’m making it into someone else’s vacation photos.
Knees a bit wobbly, a big grin on my face, Brane high fived me. “Good job!” In my head I felt like the baby from Dinosaurs. “Again! Again!” If the offer had been made I would’ve made a beeline for the gondola to do it all again. For the chance to feel like I’m floating and to see the world like many don’t get to, a kilometre above the ground.
Would you ever go paragliding in Slovenia?
- Company: 3glav Adventures
- Location: Pick-up in Bled or Bohinj area. Bus from Ljubljana leaves every hour starting at 6am and costs 6.30€ one-way.
- Length: 2 hours
- Cost: €100 for lower elevation flight, €145 for higher elevation flight, €20 for photos/video.
- Gear required: Sporty shoes / running shoes or hiking boots, Warm, comfortable / sporty clothes
- Restrictions: Must be at least 10 years old and at least 135cm tall, weight between 45kg-120kg
Be sure not to go canyoning without travel insurance. In case an injury means you need to cancel all or part of your trip, travel insurance will help you when you need it most. I recommend World Nomads as travel insurance for canyoning in Slovenia.