Experience the joy of soaring at presentation

People from around the world come to Carson Valley for the soaring and the Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition wants locals to understand why.

Residents will get a chance to view the sport through the eyes of Gavin Wills, a world-renowned soaring pilot from Omarama, New Zealand, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, at Carson Valley Middle School.

Carson Valley and a major portion of central Nevada provide world-class conditions found in only a few other places around the globe, he said.

In addition to "the wave," a phenomenon stretching along the eastern side of the Sierra that allows gliders to stay aloft for hours, strong thermal updrafts all over central Nevada can propel gliders 1,000 to 2,000 feet per minute.

"Flyers can climb high very quickly and can go long distances here," Wills said. "They can fly from one side of Nevada to the other in a single flight."

Those conditions and the services offered have attracted Wills to Carson Valley. He teaches advanced cross-country soaring skills in Carson Valley for a few months each year with his partners G Dale and Lemmy Tanner.

"I'm here because I love the place," he said.

The group spends the rest of their time teaching in Omarama, New Zealand, their primary base of operations.

"We don't make any money. The real profit is the people we meet and the adventures we have," he said. "But we do well enough and we're very good at what we do. We have students from all over the world, including Scotland, Austria, Australia and New Zealand."

Wills, who won the national glider championship just outside Cedar City, Ut., last year, said the sport has a low profile but it's an important part of the local tourist industry. Soaring makes Carson Valley a destination rather than a point of interest, he said.

"Glider pilots aren't self-promoters, so the sport isn't well understood," he said. "But overseas visitors that come here for the soaring will drop thousands of dollars in a couple of weeks."

Human kind has inhabited the earth a couple million years. We've sailed the oceans for thousands of years, but only been in the air for about 100, Wills said.

"In another 50 years there will be glider flying telecast live," he said. "It will be much more spectacular than the Indy 500."

Born and raised in Omarama, New Zealand, Wills was educated in Christ Church and his resume is, well, crowded.

He's has worked as a mountaineering guide and owned his own helicopter skiing business, in both New Zealand and Colorado. He holds a degree in geology and once worked as an exploration geologist for Kennecott Copper Corp.

He always swore gliding would be his recreation and his other avocations would be his work, but he started teaching soaring about 10-11 years ago, he said.

Wills is married to New Zealand native Mandy and their blended family includes son George, 25, and daughter Cuillin, 13.

Wednesday's presentation is free and includes refreshments and door prizes.

The event is sponsored by the Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition, an organization dedicated to maintaining, protecting and promoting the Minden-Tahoe Airport as a community airport in a manner consistent with an environmentally friendly quality of life.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.

What: Experience the Joy of Soaring presentation

When: 7 - 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Multi-purpose room at Carson Valley Middle School, 1475 Highway 395 South in Gardnerville


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