Glider Rides Soar Above the Sierra Nevada
Photo © Fred LaSor
The eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada mountain range generates the world's strongest and most reliable mountain wave conditions throughout the year. Most commonly remarked from the ground by lines of standing lenticular clouds marking its presence, the mountain wave gives rise to powerful air currents that are sought after by sailplane pilots from all over the world who come to Minden, Nevada and other airports along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range to make record high altitude and long-distance soaring flights without the use of an engine.
These pilots and modern day explorers turn to the experts at Soaring Nevada for a bird's eye and thrilling ride, a mile above the ground. Visitors can choose several rides like the Tahoe SkyRide, a motor-less glider flight with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe. Or, they can have their FAA-certified ride pilot guide them through taking control of the glider. Either way, visitors can custom tailor the ride they want. Or they can learn to fly with an FAA certificated instructor
Soaring flights above 25,000' MSL and cross country flights in excess of 500 miles are fairly common when the mountain wave is working, and sailplane pilots from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Minden as part of their "bucket list" of flights they hope someday to experience.
The strength of the rising air that creates the lenticular clouds has to be experienced to be believed. Climbs of 1,500 feet per minute in the strongest wave conditions are common, and experiencing this kind of lift in a silent glider leaves a pilot in awe of Mother Nature's raw power. Curiously enough the wind that results in the best lift frequently remains stationary over the ground so a successful wave flight is frequently can often accomplished by "parking" the glider above some feature on the earth and staying right there, all the time climbing as if on a silent elevator.
The FAA has recognized the special nature of our soaring conditions above Minden by designating a special high altitude "window" where sailplanes can soar into Class A airspace without being under the control of Air Traffic Controllers.
Standing mountain wave occurs in a handful of places around the world, but none compares with Minden, Nevada for accessibility to glider pilots or scenic beauty. Soaring in Minden's mountain wave is truly a treasure of the Sierra Nevada and its environs.
Minden is located 9 miles south of Carson City on historic US 395. Glider flights into the mountain wave can be made from SoaringNV, a commercial glider operation on the Minden-Tahoe Airport. Even that airport is a historic treasure, having been constructed during WWII by the Army Air Corps to train bomber pilots.