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Cowley Soaring Camp | Cowley, Alberta

Outdoor Adventures, Flying and Air Sports

Alberta soaring enthusiasts converge twice a year -- the week that spans July and August and then again the week before Canadian Thanksgiving -- on the old grass airstrip at Cowley to ride “The Wave”--an undulating swell of of air rolling over the Rockies and out across the foothills. If you look longingly enough, you may even be invited up for the ride.

Launch time at Cowley soaring camp. – David Thomas

About 20 sailplanes and twice as many pilots gather at the airstrip and campground for this mid-summer week of gliding and socializing. For all the activity, the pace is serene and, but for the intermittent grumble of the tow planes, the silence is broken only by the soft swishing of air over the wings of landing gliders.

The big attraction this year is the new, two-seat soar plane of Calgary’s Cunim Gliding Club. The sleek, $200,000 engine-less aircraft is equipped with hand-operated rudder controls, instead of the usual pedals. The club purchased the European-made glider to open the skies to paraplegic flight students.

More than 30 flights are the daily norm at the summer soaring camp. The airfield itself is a legacy of Canadian aviation history. In the early days of commercial flight, unpressurized aircraft could not climb over the Rockies and relied upon clear, calm weather to navigate their way through the mountain passes and valleys. When conditions were not right, westbound passenger planes waited out the weather at Cowley, where the thick steel cables used to tie down their wings remain in use by glider owners.

Click here to follow Alberta Soaring Council events.

Accessibility Notes

From Alberta Highway 3 at Cowley, drive north on Secondary Highway 510. At the intersection with Township Road 80, turn left and follow the gravel road, which bends sharply right to become Range Road 15. Continue to Township Road 82 and turn right. Continue to the Cowley airstrip and campground entrance at GPS N49.38.21.6, W114.06.06.3.

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