Curtis Canyon serves as our local “training hill” and popular evening soaring site, and works best in W-NW flow. It features multiple spots good for launching and kiting that are easily accessible by car or quick hike. Locals love Curtis for its accessibility, sunset views of the Teton Range, and potential for long evening soars in friendly lift. It also serves as goal for the occasional mini-XC flight from Snow King Resort in town. Curtis Canyon is P2/H2 minimum and is considered a high-altitude site, so be prepared for launches and landings to be faster than at lower elevations.
Please CONTACT A CLUB MEMBER before visiting any flying sites.
Operating Parameters: Ideal wind direction 270-320deg. Wind strength: min 0mph/max 18mph; ideal 10mph.
25-min drive from downtown Jackson on dirt roads (2wd/low clearance is generally sufficient, although the final dirt switchback is currently quite rough). Parking is available at the Middle Bench: parking area is just to the north of the Curtis Canyon Campground entrance. The Upper Bench is a short ~10min hike from the parking area.
The Upper Bench (7350’) is the preferred launch for soaring and extended flights. This flat clearing in the trees faces WNW, and is a mix of grasses, sage and the occasional boulder. Note that the trees and slightly cupped terrain channel wind straight into launch, often making the direction appear more straight-in than it may truly be. Check cycles at the Middle Bench before hiking up to judge true wind direction. Wind is strongest atop the Upper Bench as it’s right in the “power band” of the ridge lift. Hiking down below the lip and inflating from a rosette is a great high-wind launch strategy on flyable strong evenings.
Minimum required glide ratio: 1.6
The Middle Bench (7050’) on the west side of the parking area is the preferred landing spot after soaring the Upper Bench. It is arguably the best spot for kiting in the valley, and is launchable for a quick sledder to the lower LZ in light W/NW winds when there is no risk of rotor from the Lower Bench below. It has been launched by a solo wheelchair-using pilot, and in just the right conditions it may be possible to bench up from here to the Upper Bench. It is a great spot for pilots to re-live flights and watch the sunset after flying, too.
Minimum required glide ratio: 5.5
The Lower Bench (6800’) is the ultimate spot for new or rusty pilots to get dialed in on launches, landings and kiting. This west-facing, grassy feature is just upslope and above the road from the Lower LZ. Flights from the Lower Bench to the Lower LZ are short, generally without time for the pilot to get fully into the harness. After landing, ball up your wing and hike back up for another lap- or practice your uphill kiting skills and keep it overhead the whole way back to the top! Thanks Dave for the hand-cut steps above the road.
Minimum required glide ratio: 3.5
The Lower LZ is located below the switchback before the Curtis Canyon Campground and Middle Bench parking area. It is a gently-sloping shelf facing WNW, marked by a wind streamer and dirt pull-off area on the road shoulder. This LZ is mostly sage and tall grass with some uneven areas and the occasional gopher hole, so mind your step. Park here for Lower Bench laps or kiting practice. As mentioned above, it is easy to over-fly this LZ, especially during late afternoon when things are still thermic and poppy. It’s quite easy to hitch a ride or hike back up to your vehicle if you overfly the Middle Bench and land here instead!
BE AWARE OF:
The Elk Refuge borders the lower LZ to the west. LANDING IN THE ELK REFUGE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Please do not put our access in jeopardy by landing on the Elk Refuge!
This site is closed seasonally from Dec. 1st- April 30th due to critical wildlife habitat.
Mind the Lower LZ: its gentle slope means it can be easily over-flown. Thermic bubbles in the LZ are common, especially during hot midsummer days, and can also contribute to the risk of over-flying. Set yourself up for a low final approach. Get out of your harness early to increase drag and burn height.
If kiting at the Middle Bench, Lower Bench or LZ, be aware of airspace. Set your wing down if another pilot is approaching for a landing.
Watch for the air to turn catabatic and flow downhill around sunset.