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Exploring Our Backyard: Soaring over Carson Valley & Lake Tahoe

Gliding over Lake Tahoe in a sailplane with Soaring NV

Ever wondered what it feels like to fly like a bird?

Well, soaring may be about as close as you can get. A couple of weeks ago I took a trip down to Minden for my first experience in a glider or "sailplane", and it was an adventure I'll never forget.

Soaring NV offers world-renowned soaring in one of the world's most desirable locations for the sport, and it happens to be right in our backyard in the Carson Valley.

"Minden is one of the best places to soar because of the terrain," says owner Laurie Harden, or "Glider Girl" as she's known around the Minden-Tahoe Airport. "There is great lift for glider pilots to do great long flights - they can do 500 to 1000 kilometers in a single flight"

Harden said the experience isn't always what people expect.

"It ranges from out-and-out elation to speechlessness," she adds. "It's very secure and floaty, and it's not as scary as people think."

"The physical glider is the most beautiful man made thing in the sky - it's magical."

For my flight experience I'm paired with long-time pilot Stefan Valentin, who has been gliding for over 25 years including the last 10 in Minden. The plane is a Schweizer 2-32 glider that was made in New York back in 1964.

After a brief introduction we jump in the glider and are towed off the ground by an old crop-dusting plane. It takes about 15 minutes to be towed all the way to our optimal drop which is at 10,000 feet, between Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley.

The views are breathtaking.

On the way up there was some moments of jolting turbulence, which gives you that funny feeling in your stomach like a drop on a roller coaster. After the line is cut and the soaring begins, the ride is smooth.

We cruise for about 30 minutes taking in the scenery, and Valentin eventually let's me take the plane for a spin. It's surprisingly reactive to every move made with either the pedals or joystick from the front seat of the plane. It was a thrill to get a chance to fly, but I was happy to give the controls back to Stefan after a few minutes.

We eventually made our decent back into the Minden-Tahoe Airport for a smooth landing.

What an experience and something I would highly recommend to anyone. Can't imagine trying the sport for the first time in a better place than right here in our backyard.

For more information on trying it for yourself, head to soaringnv.com.

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