History of the Colorado Soaring Association
A Short History of the Colorado Soaring Association
CSA is an outgrowth of two previously-established clubs -- the Denver Soaring Club and the Pikes Peak Soaring Association. Both of these clubs had been operating at the Wild Ranch, in an area which is now known as the old Black Forest Glider Port. Initially formed in 1964, CSA was incorporated in 1965. Some of the people involved in establishing CSA were Ken and Mid Kolstad, Mark and Ruth Wild, Dave Johnson, Dick Eller, and Fontaine LaRue. The beginning membership totaled 25 people.
The club’s first ship was a 2-22 and later additions (about 1965) included two 1-26s.Most early launches were by winch tow, with some surprisingly long flights.A small amount of aero towing was done using Dave Johnson’s Super Cub.
To show you how much times have changed, the original membership fees were $25 and dues $10 per month. Early rental charges, when they were instituted, included a charge of $.25 per flight in the 2-22. At that time, just about everything that had to be done to operate and maintain equipment was done by the members themselves. That spirit of work and team spirit lives on in CSA today.
At Black Forest, the club was involved in constructing a clubhouse and an adjoining hangar. At one time, club ships included two 2-32s, two 1-34s, and a 1-35.
The first members were an active group of people, going on numerous expeditions and achieving some very good flights. There were a considerable number of women sailplane pilots active at that time, and they did quite well. Many of the state records listed on the board in the present clubhouse were set by people who either are or at one time were members of CSA.
In 1985, Mark Wild sold Black Forest Glider Port to another party. Knowing that BFGP’s days were numbered, CSA began the long and exhaustive search for a new home. A number of sites were investigated, including a site near Elbert, Colorado. Finally, thoughts began to center on the old Waverly West Soaring Ranch, north of Fort Collins.
Waverly West became available at just the right time and offered CSA the opportunity to own a gliderport already equipped with runways and a hangar. While many improvements would be needed, operations could begin at once, and CSA decided in April of 1985 to purchase Waverly West.
As Waverly West Soaring Ranch, the site had gone through several owners and had been closed a number of times. Wishing to reflect the new ownership, CSA renamed the site to Owl Canyon Gliderport.
The spring and summer of 1985 meant hard work for CSA members. One end of the hangar was converted to a new clubhouse with restrooms, bunkrooms, and a spacious kitchen and living area. A new water line was laid to the site. Months of hard work were put in by all CSA members, but special mention must go to Dick Gray, Fred Lidinsky, and George Davies.
The question of how to operate Owl Canyon was a difficult one. At Black Forest, the operations were conducted by Mark Wild’s Wave Flights, Inc., so CSA had no experience as a gliderport owner and owned no towing equipment. CSA members Hal and Norma Ravnsborg formed Flight Resources out of their own commitment to soaring in Colorado. Flight Resources provided towing, rental, and instruction until 1989. In that year, the board of CSA decided that a pure club operation that depended on member volunteers was preferable to an FBO-style operation. Members were asked to put in several days per year as Ground Operations Director.
In the meantime, some members of CSA continued to look for a site closer to the original Black Forest site. Eventually, objections to the Elbert location were overcome, and the new Black Forest Glider Park came into being. Many of the original CSA members left the club at that point to join this new organization. The pain of loosing many long-time CSA members in Colorado Springs was offset by the joy of gaining new members from the old Northern Colorado Soaring Society, which operated from 1980 until 1985. Even with these new members, CSA found that the burdens of gliderport ownership required a larger membership.
In 1986, CSA hosted the 1-26 Championships which was quite successful. In 1989, the Region 9 Contest was held here. The Rocky Mountain Soaring Contest, which was first held in the 1950s, is a CSA institution, and 1987 marked the beginning of a new CSA event, the Owl Canyon to Omaha Race. With the acquisition of the NCSS winch, ground launch expertise has flourished.
CSA has a long and distinguished history. And if the past is any indication, it will have a long and successful future. As regulatory pressures increase, Owl Canyon is poised to become an important soaring site in the United States. But more importantly, it’s our home.