Thursday, March 20, 2014

SoaringNV: Discover new perspective by soaring above Sierra

It’s the transition that makes the difference.

One moment, your glider is being pulled aloft from Minden-Tahoe Airport, the sound of the tow plane’s engines traveling back and mixing with the slight rumble from the small amount of turbulence.

Then the glider’s pilot detaches the tow rope. You’re soaring above the world as the air rushes past the craft’s canopy, with only a little bumping from interacting layers of the clear air you sail through, and the Douglas County landscape flowing away to the surrounding mountains.

Throughout the year, many people experience this introduction to the wonders of gliding, thanks to SoaringNV, a glider tour and training firm that operates out of the general-aviation facility about 45 minutes south of Reno.

“You know how sometimes in the winter you wake up and it’s a crisp day? That’s actually very cold, dense air that makes for a very smooth ride,” said Laurie Harden, SoaringNV’s owner (though her business card identifies her simply as “Glider Girl”).

Depending on the weather, folks can have an airborne adventure Thursday through Monday thanks to the airport’s position on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, which gives it a year-round gliding climate.

There is another company that offers glider rides — Soar Truckee, which operates out of Truckee-Tahoe Airport east of Truckee — whose season is May through September.

Starting April 1, SoaringNV will expand operations to seven days a week.

“Somebody who’s really feeling timid about unpowered flight can do a short ride, where you can only see the airport and go in a little circuit around the airport with wings level,” Harden said. “That’s one end of the spectrum.”

That end of the spectrum is the Taste of the Sky, with a trip up to 2,000 feet and a slow glide down in about 15 minutes for one or two people, depending on weight.

“The other end of the spectrum would be to go fly inverted,” Harden said. “And then there’s everything in between.”

Inverted flight is included in the Tahoe Wild Ride, which takes one passenger on a roughly 30-minute acrobatic odyssey.

In between are the Big Sky, soaring 3,000 feet above the Carson Valley, and the Tahoe Sky Ride, during which passengers can see Lake Tahoe from a mile above the earth and even take control of the glider.

The longer the ride, the wider the experience of how sailplanes work, including their ability to catch thermals, rising columns of warm air that act as atmospheric elevators and increase the time the glider stays in the air.

This up-close and personal view of the upper world — most rides place the passenger in the front seat of a two-person glider — is not a cheap thrill, starting at $99 for a single-person Taste of the Sky and topping out at $309 for a two-passenger Tahoe Sky Ride.

But the adventure is worth the price.

“They (customers) tell us it is just an unbelievable experience to see Lake Tahoe silently from a glider,” Harden said. “These include people who live on top of Kingsbury Grade, so they’ve seen the lake from the road and from the water, but somehow, floating over it in a glider makes all the difference for them.”

For more information, visit the SoaringNV website at or call 775-782-9595.

Story and photos: