« The Black Magic »
This is one of the multiple expressions showing how thermalling and furthermore Xcountry are anchored in many pilot's mind.
Nevertheless there are technics and skills to learn progressively to reach the point where you'll be able to be autonomous in long distance flying. One day a Padawan becomes a Jedi ...
How to thermal is a vast subject with few rules. Here are 5 points that you'll be teached in our xcountry paragliding courses.
5 points system.
Before thinking how to thermal , you have to find the thermal. Saying that they're invisible its obvious that finding them is process of stacking the odds in your favour. With the 5 points system you optimise your chances, there is no magic but logic to follow clues you can see and that may lead you to the right place. Lets start.
One > Landscape - The Darks side...You can put altogether the best conditions, if there is no landscape to interact with there will be no lift. The landscape's ability to absorb sun's warmth is critical to thermal generation. And for that a dark area heat up better than light coloured things. For exemple a freshly ploughed field sourrounded by green pasture will heat up better than the fields around it.
The texture and aspect are is importants : hot bubbles of air move easily over or away from a smooth surface. So imagine all the aspect that can have a kind of velcro-like effect on the air.
In the alps Colour and texture are far less important than mountain's ascpect to the sun. A hillside facing directly the sun will absorb radiation and produces strong thermal.
Two > Sun - "No water no life, no sun no thermal" ; lets say that, as a general rule, the shade is a poor place to be for any pilot with thermalling ambitions.
Three > Wind - Air obeys to the fluid's dynamic, always have this in mind. The wind creates dynamic lifts on hillsides and may help you to survive a while in the air increasing your chances to catch the next thermal. Imagine valleys as a river. The places where it would collide with the landscape and be forced upwards are good places to look for thermals.
Four > Clouds -" Trust the clouds" Where there is water there is life, where there's a cumulus, there's a thermal.Even if a cumulus is forming in odd place, away from where you would expect it (in the middle of nowhere...), even if you have no idea why its there, just remember tahrer there will be a thermal. So don't be rigid, don't stick to a flight plan along the hillside if there are Cu forming elsewhere : be oppotunistic and go for it.
Five > Birds and gliders - If you see birds or gliders climbing in a thermal its a confirmation of the 4 other points
Choose your day
Lets be realistic : a perfect day doesn't exist. At the beginning you have lots of doubts, the weakest are your skills the hardest it is. But there are days where you can see that chances are rising up : sun , little wind ( 10km/h), instability, cumulus clouds. On such a day you should be in good shape : rested, focused, determinated, with flight plan A and B in mind.