Soaring in The Midwest
   To successfully soar a sailplane to great heights and distances requires mastery of the invisible geography of the sky. This invisible geography is a conglomeration of local phenomenon produced by interactions between weather and land. In the Southwest, strong sun and dry desert combine to produce very tall thermal currents that can lift a skilled pilot to 20 thousand feet. In the West, winds over the Rocky Mountains produce dramatic waves in the atmosphere that can be used in ways not unlike surfing on an ocean wave. In the East, the long Appalachian ridges support up-slope winds that can be used to fly many hundreds of miles at high speed and low altitude.
   In the upper Midwest our gently-rolling farmland is efficiently heated by the summer sun while the prevailing northwesterly winds bring in cool Canadian air. This dynamic produces wonderful fair-weather thermal soaring in an environment both challenging and rewarding. When combined with friendly people, land-able terrain, and a myriad of small local airports the result is a great location for soaring flight. Word of this unique mix has spread across the country and a number of regional and national soaring contests have been held at Minnesota's Albert Lea Airport, most recently the 2007 18 Meter and Open Class Nationals.
   Our quiet sport is for participants, not spectators. Three soaring operations in the Twin Cities metro area provide opportunities to get involved and get in the air without traveling to the ends of the country. You can still be home for supper, but be warned; casually taking a scenic quiet ride in a glider can lead to a lifelong fascination with the sport. There are few barriers for those who wish to take the controls themselves and soar. The sky is the limit.
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