IN THE SKIES
Like many other sports, freeflying can be practised practically anywhere, provided that the environmental and meteorological conditions are suitable, and that you are appropriately trained. Some people take off from the field outside their house, others from the top of a mountain; other more daring individuals go skydiving from overhanging rock walls, opening their parachutes just a few hundred metres from the ground. It is certainly true that the area of the Dolomites is favourable to even the most extreme sports activities; easy as it is to frown upon some of them and the way they are presented by the sometimes irresponsible media, we are fully aware of how fascinating they can seem. However, it is not our intention here to recommend any such exploits.
The official hang-gliding and para-gliding fields, where there are also freeflying schools, are located in the Alpago  and in Campon d’Avena , above Feltre. Both of them are located in a piedmont zone with similar characteristics: vast expanses of fields to aid take-off and landing and almost permanently present thermal currents created by the temperature difference between the warm air of the plain and the cooler air at altitude. The Monte Avena Paragliding and Hang-gliding School (founded in 1992 by Maurizio Bottegal and Ivo Gadenz) can be easily reached from the city of Feltre . The take-off point, situated at an altitude of just under 1454 m, is clearly visible as a result of the classic wind sock and the numerous multi-coloured gliders. It looks on to the Feltre valley, with wonderful views over the Grappa massif, the Asiago plateau, the Lagorai and the mountains of the Alpago; on a cloudless day you can see right out towards the seas just beyond the Venetian lagoon. From here the finest flights can be made towards the north west , flying areas which offer astounding views over the Dolomites, especially of Feltre and Primiero.
The other important school
is in Alpago
. The take-off field is near the Dolada Refuge (1550 m), which can be reached by car from Pieve d’Alpago. Here too expert paragliders use the thermal currents to carry out all sorts of flights over the mountains of the Alpago and beyond, while beginners can just glide across the sky and come down onto the various landing points below. As on Monte Avena, both paragliding and hang-gliding
are taught and practised here, and the skies above the school also play host to extremely prestigious competitions and demonstration events. Over the years the numbers of freeflying fans have grown, and the skies above the Vette Feltrine
peaks and the Alpago Basin
are packed with paragliders and hang-gliders every weekend.
The elegant, silent glider, unlike the paraglider or the hang-glider, requires a suitably equipped airfield, because it must be towed up to altitude by an aeroplane. The only place in the province where gliding is possible is the airport in Belluno. From here, the lightweight crafts are towed up over the southern slopes of Monte Serva, where they are then released, rising up on the thermals. Once high in the air, thanks to the experience of the pilot and the sophisticated aerodynamic and lift characteristics, the glider is able to fly for hours, sometimes even beyond the Dolomites, at a speed which can top 200 km an hour.
for the curious...
What is characteristic of the piedmont zones is that they permit so-called “cross country” fights, i.e. flights which go, for example, from the Feltrino area to the Alpago, to Monte Grappa or even as far as the mountains of the Friuli and Trentino regions. These tours can be carried out in one single go, or with landings in between; pilots usually try to land again at the take-off point, but sometimes environmental conditions and the resulting thermals force them to come down elsewhere, calculated and decided upon with a reasonable safety margin.