Soar planes line up at Minden-Tahoe Airport as they continue to do more than 50 years later.
This article is the first of two parts which will discuss the background and evolution of Soaring’s popularity in the Carson Valley of Nevada.
Due to the very favorable soaring conditions, glider pilots have been coming to Minden for many years. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, and even earlier, glider pilots from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento would bring their families and gliders to Minden on the early Spring and Summer week-ends. Typically, during Easter week, “Wave Camp,” was organized and glider pilots parked next to their glider trailers along both sides of the old decommissioned runway. “Wave” is a weather phenomenon that produces strong winds and lift at very high altitudes.
Pilots and crews assembled theirs glider next to their family campers. To fly, the glider could be towed by their vehicle, lining up, or individually, toward the intersection. A local aircraft mechanic with a Cessna 182 and a tow hook gave glider tows on his lunch hour. Families were support crew, and after launch, children got to play, if sure their pilot would not need a relight (another tow) and go to town for shopping. Often for “Wave Camp” or other special events, participants arranged for their own tow plane. In town, a banner stretched across Hwy 395 displayed “Welcome Gliders,” inviting participants to enjoy the Carson Valley’s numerous commercial and natural amenities.
My “Soar Minden” became the first full service commercial soaring operation at the Douglas County Airport. The existing Minden Fabrication Co. built glider trailers and did glider maintenance. In 1978, Soar Minden purchased a new Schweizer 2-33 and 1-26 at Stead Airport from a former SR-71 pilot’s dealership and the first glider operation at Minden offered instruction, rentals, and tows. Shortly thereafter, Minden Fabrication became High Country Soaring and pilots could get what they wanted with two operations available.
On a normal summer day, one could find glider pilots from many countries flying at Minden. Minden became well known around the world by “word of mouth” among the soaring community. Upon experiencing the exceptional soaring conditions in the Carson Valley and adjacent eastern Sierra, pilots would often proclaim, “We’re coming back and telling all our friends!”
Please watch for “Soaring in Minden-Then to Now” (Part 2) which will discuss recent Soaring activities and today’s revitalization of the Minden Soaring Club.
Linda Mae Hivert is past president of the Sports Aviation Foundation. For more information visit www.sportsaviationfoundation.org