What do ...
… the hang-gliders of Davos get up to in winter?
Man has always dreamed of flying. The hang-gliders of Davos have made that dream come true. "We fly in an incredibly beautiful location," says Muck Letsch, owner of the Luftchraft Flying School in Davos. He covers distances of 80 to 100 kilometres with his glider in the mountains of Graubünden. And not just in summer – the thermals are still around in winter.
"Graubünden is perfect for hang-gliding." Of this, Muck Letsch is convinced. Not just because it has suitable areas for flying, but also thanks to the low number of electric power lines that can make life difficult for hang-gliders. Born in Zurich, Letsch has lived in Graubünden for 18 years and knows the Swiss canton like the back of his hand – at least from the air. He first tried out hang-gliding as a 16-year-old and has been unable to shake off the bug ever since: "The fascination that emanates from hang-gliding is difficult to describe – it has to be experienced! But I'm sure each of us has at one time or another longed to be carried on the wind like a bird." In 1989 Muck Letsch passed his flying test, and for a long time hang-gliding remained his hobby: the trained electrician worked as a cable car technician in Laax, while helping out at the weekends and on holidays at a flying school as a tandem pilot and launch helper. "For many people, being a launch helper is the springboard to becoming a flying teacher," says Letsch. As it was in his case: in 2002, he sat his flying instructor exam and set up his own flying school the following year.
A universe of its own
According to Muck Letsch, anyone of average physical fitness who is able to pick things up quickly and who can master the coordination challenges can learn to hang-glide. His students are a mixed bunch in terms of career and age: "Every age group is represented, from 15 right up to 60," Letsch says. "A flying school is a universe all of its own – the love of flying is the common denominator. Friendships arise between people who might not otherwise have met in different circumstances." Luftchraft mainly flies on the Jakobshorn, which is suitable for all-day flying. Other than Davos, the places in which Muck Letsch most likes to unfurl his glider are Flims and Verbier: "Depending on the time of day and time of year, each place has its own attractions." On the occasions where he takes a trip away from the mountains, he is fascinated by flying over the sea, especially close to beaches with high sand dunes in Denmark and on the French Atlantic coast. And what do the hang-gliders get up to in winter? "Flying!", Letsch grins. As well as September, February and March are perfect for flying in Davos, as the thermal currents are ideal both at the height of winter and late in the season. Although the temperature can sometimes feel as cold as minus 25° C. "Then it's a case of wrapping up warm – and pulling your scarf up over your nose," according to the instructor. And when the wind isn't right for hang-gliding or there is too much snow on the ground? Then the hang-gliders of Davos simply switch to speed flying, a cross between freeride skiing and hang-gliding.