It may sound strange that in spite of almost 2500 hours spent in the air in different places in the world, from South Africa, through Morocco, Spain, throughout the whole Alps up to Norway, the distances flown and time spent above the Karkonosze Mountains and the surrounding area give me the most pleasure. Even a short 30-kilometer-flight around Sniezka has more meaning for me than 'shooting' hundreds of kilometers in the Alps. Because of the Karkonosze - to see 4 take-offs at the same time from my terrace and be able to reach any of them within 30 minutes - I moved here from Wrocław some time ago.
I know this terrain from many hikes and bicycle trips, from climbing in the Sokoliki, kitesurfing on Bukówka Lake and snowboarding in the winter, but its biggest value (for me) is that it gives the great chance to practice flying here.
Any pilot who can deal with the Karkonosze Mountains won't have problems with flying in other places: not in big mountains like the Alps or any other more 'hummocky' terrain like, for example, the Beskids or the Stranik's region. I'm not even mentioning flatlands because I think that with the mountain experience one will manage over flat terrain with no problem. It doesn't always work the other way round though.
In the Karkonosze one has an opportunity to gain experience in almost all kinds of flying. Depending on the current conditions we can decide to:
• Fly along the main ridge, above the mountainous (1200-1600 m) terrain from the Okraj pass, over Czoło, Snieżka, Kopa, Mały and Wielki (Small and Big) Szyszak, Snieżne Kotły, Szrenica to Jakuszyce.
• Fly along the parallel hilly (500-800 m) range, which in its character resembles flying in the area surrounding Stranik Mountain in Slovakia. I am referring to the whole terrain from Strzelec behind Karpacz, then Chojnik castle and further to the Izera Mountains and Świeradów Zdrój.
• Combine flying over both mentioned ranges with heading towards the terrain that gradually changes from the hills into the regular plains.
We don't have the strong valley wind system that is so typical for the big valleys in the Alps.
Paragliding in the Karkonosze Mountains has evolved a lot over the last few years. Thanks to the efforts of the late Mayor (and a paraglider pilot at the same time ) Marek Jiruska, we have good relations with the local authorities that are very helpful. Karkonosze Paragliding Club teams up almost a hundred active pilots. Its members take care of some local take-offs and landing areas.
Flying conditions in the area aren't easy for inexperienced pilots. Those from tow launch paragliding centres, not accustomed with mountain flying and the influence of the terrain configuration on changes in the wind speed and direction should be particularly careful and, if it's possible, ask more experienced pilots for the necessary information before the flight.
On the other hand it can be observed that pilots' skills improve considerably each year. In good weather more and more of them fly regularly over the whole region. Air excursions along the whole Karkonosze and Izera Mountains and then further towards Saxon Switzerland, trips to Zgorzelec, Zielona Góra or to the terrain behind Śnieżnik in Kłodzko valley slowly become a standard. The cross-country distance of more than 150 km is frequently covered by our pilots.
On a typical flyable day we meet in the morning at the gas station by the Kowary bypass (a wind sleeve on a mast) or at the Statoil gas station near the Rudnik's landing zone. Then we make a decision which take-off should work best.
Original version by: Grzegorz Olejnik