Jim Nielsen on Approach in the club SGS-1-26,
Photo by:

Cathy Lucas

A sailplane is a glider designed to fly efficiently and gain altitude solely from natural forces, such as thermal, ridge and wave.

Contact Alaska Mountain Soaring

The Matanuska valley and Pioneer Peak
Photo by:

Bob Kaufman


Alaska Mountain Soaring is based in South Central Alaska just a few miles North of Anchorage at Birchwood, Wasilla and Palmer Airports.
All three locations afford quick tows to the adjacent Chugach ranges for ridge lift and wave. The Palmer and the Wasilla Airports provide a good launch point for more Northern explorations up the warm side of the Talkeetna mountains and into the thermal birthing cupped valleys of Hatcher’s pass.
Being close to civilization (Anchorage) makes it easy on any day, to check the weather, call a few club members to coordinate some local soaring.

Birchwood Airport, PABV

Birchwood Airport is located approx. 4 miles from Bear mountain and affords opportunities for a quick launch to ridge lift and thermals along the Chugach Mountains

Wasilla Airport, PAWS

Wasilla Airport is located in the Matanuska Valley and is beyond the reach of the marine layer. From Wasilla we can climb on thermals and a shear line along the inlet.

Palmer Airport, PAAQ

Palmer Airport is located in the Matanuska Valley. From Palmer, it’s an easy quick tow to the 6500 foot Pioneer Peak for mountain wave and cold thermal soaring.

Wolf Lake Airport, 4AK6

Wolf Lake Airport affords us the opportunity to tow to the Talkeetna mountains. From this location, we can easily explore the afternoon heat and the great heat bowl of Hatcher Pass.

Thermal Lift

Thermals are columns of rising air created by the heating of the Earth’s surface. As the air near the ground is heated by the sun, it expands and rises. Pilots keep an eye out for terrain that absorbs the morning sun more rapidly than surrounding areas. These areas, such as asphalt parking lots, dark plowed fields and rocky terrain, are a great way to find thermal columns. Pilots also keep a look out for newly forming cumulus clouds, or even large birds soaring without flapping their wings, which can also be signs of thermal activity.

Once a thermal is located, pilots will turn back and circle within the column until they reach their desired altitude at which time they will exit and resume their flight. To prevent confusion, gliders all circle in the same direction within thermals. The first glider in the thermal gets to decide the direction — all the other gliders that join the thermal must circle in that direction.

Ridge Lift

Ridge lift is created by winds blowing against mountains, hills or other ridges. As the air reaches the mountain, it is redirected upward and forms a band of lift along the windward side of the slope. Ridge lift typically reaches no higher than a few hundred feet higher than the terrain that creates it. What ridge lift lacks in height, however it makes up for in length; gliders have been known to fly for a thousand miles along mountain chains using mostly ridge lift and wave lift.

Wave Lift

Wave lift is similar to ridge lift in that it is created when wind meets a mountain. Wave lift, however, is created on the leeward side of the peak by winds passing over the mountain instead of up one side. Wave lift can be identified by the unique cloud formations produced. Wave lift can reach thousands of feet high and gliders can reach altitudes of more than 35,000 feet.

Membership Info, Sailing Resources

Click the links below to learn about membership and explore our sailing resources

About Alaska Mountain Soaring

The purpose for which Alaska Mountain Soaring is formed our to explore, research and promote the scientific and engineering aspects of motorless flights and to promote a greater understanding of the dynamics of flight and flight safety. To this and its equipment is used in educational and scientific activities. These purposes are exclusively for charitable, educational, and scientific purposes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code.

A separate activity is the scientific operations of the organization. These operations are varied and include the following research into sailplane flights, studies of better sailplane instruments for cold weather applications, and the investigation of Northern atmospheric conditions of Interior and Southcentral Alaska.

Towing a glider aloft to 2,500 or 3,000 feet afford the glider the opportunity to fly for about 20 minutes before it must land if the glider cannot find lift that will enable it to extend the duration of flight.  Towing consist of a tow plane with an engine pulling another plane (a glider) without an engine into the air. Tows aloft can be terminated at a lower altitude or extended higher depending on the local conditions experienced at the airfield. Training will be conducted in order to ensure all operations are conducted safely and efficiently, in addition to furthering the exempt purpose of promoting a greater understanding of the dynamics of flight and flight safety. The training will consist of flight safety, preflight inspection, principles of motorless flight, operating at a tow plane and other areas related to aeronautics.

Glider flights are conducted by Federal Aviation Administration licensed pilots who are properly qualified to conduct the operation that they carry out. The majority of members of the organization will consist of individuals from the Alaska region including, but not limited to Alaska Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Membership is not limited to any specific group and is open to all members of the public with a keen interest in carrying out the exempt purposes of Alaska Mountain Soaring. This includes, but is not limited to, glider instructors, ground instructors, office assistants, researchers, ground crew, wing runners, glider pilots, and tow pilots. Glider instructors must be rated as a certified flight instructor – glider (CFI-G). Two pilots must be at least private pilots with the necessary experience to tow gliders.

In order to operate a glider alone, the pilot must be at least a licensed private pilot or a student with an endorsement from a CFI-G. Additional pilots will come from the ranks of local qualified volunteers who wish to assist in the operations. These include individuals from surrounding areas, including, but not limited to, Alaska, Western Canada, the Pacific Northwest who have the necessary qualifications and experience in order to safely operate the aircraft. Familiarization flights will also be conducted that will allow any and all interested parties from the local area to experience glider flights in order to better understand the mechanics of flight and the unique characteristics of soaring.


Message from the president

Alaska Mountain Soaring (AMS) is an emerging soaring club based near Anchorage Alaska in the Matanuska Valley. We are a nonprofit with 501 (c) (3) status.

AMS is in the early stages of forming, and we seeking equipment to run our operations. Even though we are not yet open to the public, we know with the support of our aviation community, we will be up and running soon. Please drop us a line and let us know if you would like to get involved.



Pete Brown’s C-170B at Lake George Alaska
Photo by:

Rob Stapleton

Contact us at Alaska Mountain Soaring

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