Soaring Up At Sugarbush

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®

Last week, my family spent some time vacationing in the “off season" up at Sugarbush Mountain in Warren, Vermont. Sugarbush is usually recognized for its outstanding skiing, but this time of year also brings cool evenings, colorful foliage, and numerous outdoor activities to enjoy.

We became curious after passing roadside signs for glider rides and decided to investigate. The drive to the Sugarbush "airport" is pretty much uphill on a windy, mostly unpaved road, past a farm or two (that included sizable and fragrant piles of cow manure). Unlike most airports, this one contained only a couple of gasoline powered airplanes. The rest of their fleet were gliders.

After asking a few questions about procedures and costs, despite what Nancy Reagan told me, we just couldn't say no. My son and I both signed up for separate two person flights on a German made Schleicher ASK-21 glider that thankfully included a skilled pilot. The only reason I mention the make of the glider is that everyone at the airport seemed quite proud of them, so I guess I should be too. 

Even if you've never flown in a glider before, I'm sure you are aware they are a little different than most airplanes. Probably the biggest difference is that they don't have an engine! The only way to get initial elevation is to be pulled up by another single engine plane on a rope. 

Once I got the lowdown on how to buckle my 5 point seatbelt and not to touch this, that, that other thing over there, that knob, that dial, the foot pedals and especially do not touch that stick moving around, it was time to start out. I admit that the moment when they closed my roof canopy, I did have a fleeting feeling that maybe I had made a serious mistake signing up. I suppose the fact that they didn't issue me a parachute was comforting (or not). The take-off felt quite similar to water skiing to me. The tow rope tightened, we bounced along the grass for a while, then smoothly the tow plane took us up to 5,000 feet before I (yes, me!) pulled the umbilical cord and slowly rode the thermals and took in the spectacular Vermont views for a half hour or so. Our grass landing contained a few extra jolts due to our speed, but I didn't mind it too much.

Would I ever do it again? Heck ya! It was crazy fun!