Lofty Views

Paragliding, the most peaceful extreme sport, now has an exhilarating new edge. In the Alps, wings and skis come together for speed riding—essentially bounding downhill at high velocity. The skis get you from the chairlift to the slope, then give you the speed to take off. The wing—a lightweight rectangular parachute—hovers over the skier, providing lift and drag. As riders skim down the mountain, their skis periodically brush the ground and send them soaring back up. They clear cliffs, boulders and small trees by making subtle adjustments to the angle of the wing via controls in each hand.

Several schools in the French Alps offer paragliding lessons year-round, along with introductions to speed riding. Les Ailes du Mont Blanc in prestigious Chamonix offers speedriding packages and daily lessons à la carte (€95 per day, Prévol has been floating colorful canopies along the cliffs for more than 20 years, and in the winter offers speedriding training (€90 per day; In Haute Provence, some of the pioneers of French paragliding teach at Aérogliss, which offers five-day introductory and training packages, all materials provided (€500; In the winter, when there's less hot air to lift you up, the only way to go is down. Fast.

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