Up Where the Angels Breathe and the Gliders Fly: Meet Carson Valley Air Sports

“To obtain the air angels breathe, you must go to Lake Tahoe,” professed Mark Twain. Well, we’re guessing he never made it up in an engineless glider plane to see what those world-renowned thermals are all about. But what Mark Twain lacked in opportunity, glider pilots from all over the world have surely made up for with regaled tales of some of the best gliding conditions on earth. And it’s true: it’s here where you can ride the Eastern Sierra thermal wave and lift all day, get a tow, or even your glider pilot Diamond FAI Gliding Badge, let a Carson Valley hot air balloon ride take you up and above some of the region’s loftiest peaks, or take your adrenaline to new heights with Skydive Lake Tahoe, all from the Carson Valley region and  Minden-Tahoe Airport. According to us, Carson Valley really is the air sports HQ of Nevada, and with one whoosh, jump, hover, or sail, it’s easy to see why. 

Balloon Nevada: Hot Air Balloon Rides Over Carson Valley

lake tahoe balloon above carson valley Pilot Sheldon above Carson Valley.Maybe you’re not quite ready to jump in an engineless plane. If so, we’ve got a big, beautiful hot air balloon with your name on it. Also headquartered in Carson Valley, one of the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe region’s best hot air balloon rides departs from Gardnerville at Balloon Nevada, and with all kinds of specially curated location and flight experience packages, are ready to take your bucket list to new heights.

Like soaring or gliding, jumping into a hot air balloon and floating up, up, and away is a seasonless activity, with some of the best experiences during the fall and winter months with cooler, calmer weather patterns. Expert balloon pilot Sheldon Grauberger will keep you and your crew safe, with decades of experience, more than 2,500 hours of flight experience and a flawless safety record. While most hot air balloon rides depart from Carson Valley, if you’ve always had your heart set on the world’s largest free hot air balloon festival in Reno, Balloon Nevada offers special flight packages during the Great Reno Balloon Race. Otherwise, whether you’re looking for that *perfect* engagement, want to give the unforgettable gift of a lifetime, or are ready to celebrate scenery that’s only possible from Carson Valley with you and yours, choose from all kinds of unbeatable balloon packages over on Balloon Nevada’s website. And if your trip brings you to Carson Valley in May, be sure to get Carson Valley’s Hot Air for Hope hot air balloon festival on the calendar, which typically happens the third weekend each May.

No matter which one you end up with, most flights last around an hour, can accommodate up to eight passengers, and every person on board is sure to have an unblemished view they won’t forget. Float up and over Jobs Peak and the rest of that iconic Eastern Sierra range that hugs Carson Valley, and keep an eye out for a world of wildlife up there where the eagles soar. 

For more info on making your ballooning experience a reality, be sure to get in touch with Balloon Nevada directly at (775) 344-9988.

Skydive Lake Tahoe

What about adventure cranked all the way up with absolutely no dial? Carson Valley has plenty of adrenaline-filled air sports too, and there’s no better place to feel the thrill than Skydive Lake Tahoe. Also operating from Minden-Tahoe Airport and only a few blocks down from SoaringNV, see what the best skydiving in the Carson Valley is all about. Offering the premiere tandem skydiving experience in the region and far beyond, it’s here where you can jump out of a plane and feel good about it, and all with acclaimed views of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley below as the chef’s kiss.

While you’ll find competitive pricing, certified and accomplished skydiving instructors, along with unrivaled scenery with excellent weather all year long, the name of the game at Skydive Lake Tahoe is safety. Here, you’re in the excellent care of true skydiving pros, who put the safety of their passengers first, always. Everyone ready to take the jump will go through a mandatory safety briefing. That, and only tandem skydiving packages are offered here, which means the instructor will take all responsibility for deploying your parachute or canopy, which happens after you’ve gotten to experience the thrill of free-falling from the plane for a few seconds. When all is said and done, the parachute rides last a blood-pumping five minutes, with plenty enough time to take in amazing views of Lake Tahoe from up above, and of course all the spectacular sights of Carson Valley as you float back down to solid ground at the Minden-Tahoe Airport

Oh, and get this: you can even get married from up there. Be sure to ask about all the different packages offered, with engagement jumps, group discounts, and all sorts of really great photo and video packages to go along with them, too. If you’re ready for the thrill of a lifetime, Skydive Lake Tahoe is ready to make it all happen. Reservations are required, so be sure to book your flight with them directly ahead of your visit, at (775) 790-7602.

Glide the Skies at SoaringNV Carson Valley

Carson Valley sure is beautiful from down below, but as far as we’re concerned, you can’t put a price on what you’ll see from up there. And thanks to the folks at SoaringNV at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, it’s never been easier to take in America’s largest alpine lake and that wide-open agricultural expanse that encircles it. And while there sure is enough thermals to go around for anyone interested today, the truth is, glider pilots have been coming to Minden for many, many years. 

So what is soaring anyway, and why does it matter? Back in the early 1960’s & 70s, with their glider planes and families in tow, people from as far away as San Francisco would come to Carson Valley to experience those world-class thermals right over Jobs Peak and the rest of the Eastern Sierras’ jagged mountain peaks. Back then, gliding was just taking off as an air sport, but dozens of friends and families sure did it, formulating what they came to know as “Wave Camp”, celebrating the region’s strong winds at high altitudes. Here in Carson Valley, they’d park their camping trailers and glider planes along both ends of the old decommissioned Minden-Tahoe Airport runway, tow each other up above and into the thermal waves, and glide away. 

And in the years since, the Carson Valley gliding team has coasted even further into the national spotlight. Matter of fact, in 2023, the Minden Soaring Club team, the “Cowboys”, took first place for the fourth year in a row in the On-Line Contest, which is a 19 week contest among soaring clubs from around the world. Not only that, but they won by a lot—a whole 41% greater than the team that took second place.  So yeah, you could pretty much say soar planes and gliding endeavors are a big deal in Carson Valley, and one that’s never been easier to be part of whether it’s your first or thousandth flight.

Soaring Minden became the first full-service commercial soaring operation out of the Douglas County Airport in the 1970s, and in the entire region. Even today, SoaringNV and Carson Valley gliding still separates itself from other gliding destinations in the West, and even world, thanks to the very unusual, yet dependably there thermal waves that come off the Eastern Sierra every month of the year. Jump in the cockpit with a professional glider pilot with thousands of hours in the logbook seated behind you. Then, departing from the Minden-Tahoe Airport in the heart of Carson Valley, a tow plane will hoist you up and over the Sierra, and depending on the gliding package you choose, tour around some of South Lake Tahoe’s most famous sights, including Emerald Bay and Desolation Wilderness. Once you’ve had a good look at Big Blue from up above, the tow plane will cut you loose and with enough wave action coming off Jobs Peak, there’ll be enough thermals to ride all day. With climb rates exceeding 1,500 feet per minute, better make sure you’ve got your camera along for the glide of your life.

Today, SoaringNV offers a lofty array of options for you to get up in the air. SoaringNV paved the way to offer plenty of glider rides all twelve months of the year, which makes this a seasonless activity and one of the best experiential gifts to give. But better yet, if you’re a pilot or want to become one, SoaringNV and the Minden-Tahoe Airport is one of the best places in the world to learn to fly because of those renowned thermal waves that make getting your Diamond FAI gliding badge a reality. It’s one of those hard-to-achieve certifications in most other places because these gliding conditions don’t exist in many other places, at least not reliably so. While most glider pilots dream of getting this Diamond FAI gliding badge—which requires the pilot to glide long distances at high elevation—it becomes a reality in Carson Valley.

Ready to book this adventure? Learn about the soaring opportunities that the Carson Valley has to offer. Get in touch with SoaringNV directly at (775) 782-9595.

Get Yourself Signed up for Flight Classes with High Sierra Pilots

Sitting behind the cockpit in that glider plane sure is a thrilling thing—maybe enough to inspire you to learn how to actually read and operate all those controls you see in front of you. Well the good news is this: Carson Valley’s High Sierra Pilots flying club makes it easier than ever with all kinds of training experiences with the Part 61 Flight School among all kinds of other aviation enthusiasts from all over the region, and world.

High Sierra Pilots’ certified flight instructors are committed to providing students with everything they need to feel at ease, going into those flight exams, and with a love for aviation as unending as that big, blue Nevada sky stretched overhead, you’ll know you came to the right place as soon as you set foot on the tarmac. Also operating from the Minden-Tahoe Airport, get your private pilot license, instrument rating, commercial pilots license, CFI Flight Instructor certification, ME multi-engine rating, high performance endorsement, light sport pilot’s license, or even your rotor-wing endorsement, all from right here in Minden, NV.

Best yet, if you’re looking to take one bucket-list flight of your life on your vacation to Carson Valley, or ready to commit to studying with High Sierra Pilots for the whole private pilot certification program, you’ve found the right flight school. Make this new adventure part of your travels to the Carson Valley. 

Crank the Luxury All the Way Up and Charter Your Own Private Plane or Helicopter

Pacific North HelicoptersDiscovering Carson Valley’s loftiest outdoor adventure scene sure is a thing of beauty. And with enough sky to go around for all adventure levels, you can hardly go wrong with the zero-to-a-hundred luxuries that come along with chartering your own private flight. And departing from the Minden-Tahoe Airport, Carson Valley proudly offers that too.

Basically, if you want to charter a private plane or helicopter, there are plenty of companies ready to make those wishes a reality. Mercury Jets, Surf Air, and Charter Flight Group are just a few among many private jet companies that operate from the Minden-Tahoe Airport, ready to take you and your crew up, up, and away. Have questions about making this luxury your reality? Be sure to get in touch with the Minden-Tahoe Airport to chat through your options directly, at (775) 782-9871.

As you rediscover your adventurous side with Carson Valley’s unending recreation scene up in the air, look for even more fresh air with your name on it right here on the ground too in the beautiful Carson Valley.