Boulder - Wonderland
First student flights to epix XC.
158.400 DCS 23
P2 / H2
Boulder is a site for everyone: students to XC sky gods, paragliders, hang gliders, and minis. Students are out most days from April to October sledding until 10 or 11am. Thermals usually start up between 10:30-12:30 and can get quite strong - only advanced pilots should launch midday. As the shade comes in at 3-4pm, gentler conditions often return yet remain bouyant.
With only 650' of vertical, you only have 1-2 minutes to find a thermal before you're too low. Time your launch well or fly directly to another pilot or bird going up. Boulder can be very frustrating for new pilots learning to stay up!
The XC potential from Boulder is outstanding, with flights S to CO Springs and N to Wyoming. Flying over the Flatirons is magical, though crossing Boulder Canyon (with no legal landings) is not for beginners.
The hike from the LZ takes you to Main Launch. It is best with E to SE winds, as the trees on the N end of launch can cause turbulence. Launching in the North Gully, left of the trees, is not recommended.
The South Launch is best with NE to E winds. Don't fly into the trees directly E of launch! Use an Uber to get to South Launch and take a short hike from the drop off.
Lower Launch and 3/4 Launch are primarily used by students.
One of the nicest LZ's in America! The giant grassy field occasionally hosts a soccer tournament, but otherwise there are no obstacles. If you come up short of the field, the natural land is pretty clear but look out for rocks and cacti.
Pilots usually congregate near the trees on the SW corner.
Launch and Landing Map
South Launch Access
This is a drop-off-only launch area. Do not park on Pine Needle Road or North Cedar Brook Road.
The drop-off point is a wide spot in the road just past 145 Pine Needle Rd. See map.
Do not drive beyond the pull-out area, as there are no other places to turn around. Do not turn around in private driveways.
A good first goal is Mt. Sanitas, which is close but involves a canyon crossing and varied terrain below. Depart the home ridge at 7,500' or higher and return if you get even with the summit of Mt. Sanitas.
Another good first XC flight is going north as far as you can, with Lyons a nice goal. There are many landing options along the way and getting retrieved on highway 36 is easy. Note there is no LZ in Lyons proper - land S of town or Rabbit Valley to the N.
The Flatirons should be on every XC pilot's bucket list. Be aware that the only legal landing options in the area are North Boulder Park and then NCAR way in South Boulder. Chatauqua is NOT a legal LZ - it's for emergencies only. As a result, get really high over Mt. Sanitas for your first attempts - 10,000' makes it comfortable. Try to find some lift as you pass over Flagstaff. Once you get near the flatties you will likely find good lift. Then onwards to Golden if you want!
Ideal Wind Range: HG 3-12mph max 25. PG 3-10mph max 15. MW 3-15mph max 18.
The entire front range is on the lee side of the Rocky Mountains and we depend on anabatic mountain flow to make a bubble of east wind we can fly in. You must understand how to use our wind tools and don't get caught in west winds coming down the mountains.
The front range has thunderstorms very often during flying season. Not only are they dangerous when you can see them, they can produce gust fronts that can travel 100 miles!
High winds aloft can also cause problems as they get turbulent over the Rockies and then rotor into our flying altitudes. Look for winds <20mph at 14,000' and not too crazy at 18,000'. A strong inversion can keep it safer - learn to read a Skew-T!
Once above the main ridge, staying up isn't too bad, but launching Boulder is like starting off with a low save and can be frustrating.
Common thermal triggers: right in front of both Main and South launches, the tree-covered "bump" in between those launches, the houses just to the south of the LZ, and any of the many ramp/rock features that are facing the wind and sun.
Be careful scraping terrain looking for lift. Many accidents have happened when sharp little bullets surprised pilots. Better to find a bird or another pilot out front.