Vermont is for Soaring: Civil Air Patrol cadets learn about glider flying techniques at the Vermont Glider Academy in Springfield, Vt.
Photo by Louis Varricchio.
Middlebury Vermont comes alive in the spring and the best views of the doubly verdant Green Mountain State—with an emphasis on the green—is from the sky. And the best place to be in the sky above Vermont is in a sailplane.
Flying gliders for fun and profit has been a tradition in Vermont since the 1930s. Today, several airports offer residents and tourists glider rides above the fields, forests and peaks of the state.
Flying in a sailplane is like no other flying experience—unless you’re ready for hang gliding. Gliders are quiet and there’s nothing to distract passengers from enjoying the closest thing to being a bird.
With their long, light high-lift wings, sailplanes are ultra safe. According to various reports, there are fewer sailplane accidents than powered aircraft.
Designed to ride the thermal uplifts of the atmosphere like soaring birds of prey, sailplanes are typically towed to altitude by an airplane and then—at the right elevation and location—released to soar for hours at a time.
Some glider pilots have broken altitude records, soaring to levels not too far below where only commercial jets dare to travel. Of course, only skilled pilots with onboard oxygen and heated flight suits have dared to venture into these rarefied regions of the upper troposphere.
Closer to Mother Earth, there are two prime airports in central Vermont which are the jewels in the state’s soaring crown.
Perhaps best known to sailplane pilots and thrill-seeking tourists alike is the Sugarbush, Vt., Airport, home of Sugarbush Soaring.
As the pilots of Sugarbush Soaring describe it, theirs is not only a commercial operation—it’s also a fun club with an active social scene.
“Soaring is a special sport, and if you’re interested in joining us in the sky we would love to show you around our beautiful airport,” says Gail Webster who manages the soaring scene’s office. “One way to learn about our club and our sport is to simply drop by. Anyone on the field would be happy to show you around, answer your questions, introduce you to the instructors and other club members, and let you sit in a glider. Should you decide to fly with us, you’ll find that is considerably cheaper once you join the club.”