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Flying high with Stowe Soaring in the Green Mountains of Vermont

By S. Mathur

Gliding is the closest humans can get to natural flight, experiencing the world as an eagle does, soaring high above the mountains. The Green Mountains of Vermont have spectacular scenery; the topography and air currents also make them a particularly good location for gliding. Stowe Soaring Pilot Don Post explains: "The Green Mountains are great for soaring because the mountains create their own weather that - without a long explanation - is great for soaring. Also the views in every direction are fantastic - especially out over Lake Champlain towards the Adirondacks."

Many children dream of learning to fly, but few are able to realize that ambition. Post is one of the lucky ones: "I've always been interested in flying since I was a child. After hang gliding and then earning my private pilot license and instrument rating, I finally flew in a glider in 1999. Love at first flight! When Stowe Soaring became available, I jumped in!"

A variety of trips, from 10 minutes to one hour, give visitors a taste of flying and a view of the spectacular scenery below. Pilots point out the landmarks, including Mt. Elmore, the Worcester Mountain range, Mt. Mansfield, the Lamoille Valley, Stowe village, the Trapp Family Lodge, and in the distance, the Adirondacks.

The Intro Trip lasts ten minutes, and is really just a teaser. Longer trips fly over the Green mountains and the Stowe countryside. The Mile High Mt. Mansfield Special flies high over Mt. Mansfield, which is 4,393 feet high. This 40-minute trip gives you an eagle's eye view over three states and two countries and is billed a "life-changing" experience. The planes can seat two passengers at a time, making it the perfect experience for couples or parents and children.

If you're feeling particularly brave, the pilot will perform exciting maneuvers and even allow you to fly for a little while. Stowe Soaring also offers regular flying and gliding lessons as well as rentals and tows for pilots at all levels, from novice to expert. The official gliding season at Stowe Soaring runs from May 1 through October 31, through good weather often allows for an earlier start, in late April.

Of course it all depends on the weather cooperating. A good day for gliding, Post says, is when you can see "...a high cloud base of cumulus with long cloud streets formed by the winds aloft. This is a sure sign of great soaring and the possibility of long trips and high speeds."

Gliding is so different from commercial flying that it seems wrong to use the same word - "flight" - to describe both. Visitors use words like "a feeling of freedom," "peace and quiet," "gliding high above it all" to describe the experience. But mostly, it leaves them speechless.

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