Villa Grove Site Guide

Villa Grove Panorama
Jim Yocom
Description

Located near Villa Grove, CO in the San Luis Valley. Site faces SW, launch at approximately 9,760 ft MSL, The primary LZ is at 8000 ft MSL and is miles and miles of grass and short sage fields starting at the base of the Sangre De Cristo range. The Sangre De Cristos range from 12,000ft MSL to over 14,000ft MSL and run unbroken for over 60 miles to the south of launch, then a 15 mile gap and continuing into New Mexico. Both ridge soaring and thermal opportunities. Flying often possible year round. Great XC potential. Often called the little Owens Valley.

Mornings are usually light winded, suitable for Hang 2 and P2's. Midday can have strong thermal activity with sudden changes in wind velocity due to thunderstorms from May-August. Beware of storms and sudden gust fronts. It is common for the San Luis valley to have a visible inversion at about 2,000ft AGL. Pilots exercising patience and hanging onto a good thermal can break through the inversion and soar the stronger ridge and thermal lift above the inversion on the San Luis Mtns. Not commonly flown by paragliders during midday due to the stronger winds above the inversion and turbulent thermals. Evenings often offer a spectacular glass off. A local HG pilot lives just south of the LZ.

Contacting a local pilot highly advised prior to first flights at Villa. Cell coverage is weak and local weather conditions can be very different than forecasts. Be careful of strong upper winds and a strong venturi at Hayden pass. Winds at launch are generally stronger than forecasted surface winds due to compression.

RMHPA Insured Location

RMHPA insurrs the private property to the SW of the primary landing zone. If you land at this residence you need to be a member of RMHPA.

Launch
Launch Altitude:9,760 feet
Primary Landing Zone Altitude:8,000 feet
Launch to LZ Distance:2.1 miles
Glide to primary LZ:6:1
Villa Grove Launch
Jim Yocom

Launch faces southwest, altitude is 9,760 feet. This is a high altitude launch site. Strong kiting skills and good launch technique are required. Pilots must be prepared to manage strong thermic launch conditions. Pilots with weaker kiting skills may be dragged.

Radio Frequency: 151.955 MHz no DCS. Locals in the valley use a non-USHPA frequency but that is often crowded with non-flying chatter.

Villa Grove is technically a H2/P2 site w/ High Altitude and Turbulence endorsements. H3/P3 other times. Winds can increase suddenly, making it dangerous for paragliding midday. Best conditions: 5-10 mph for PG; 10-15 for HG SW; Upper level winds must be checked and respected—talk with locals. Winds on launch may seem acceptable but strong winds may develop suddenly especially in the valley and in passes making conditions very dangerous. Overdevelopment with thunderstorms and associated hazards can also develop very quickly.

Always fly within the USHPA recommended operating limitations for your rating as specified in the USHPA Pilot Proficiency System. 

Best time(s) of day to fly: Mornings are usually light winded, suitable for Hang 2 and P2's. Midday can be active with strong thermal activity with sudden changes in wind velocity due to thunderstorms from May-August. Beware of storms and sudden gust fronts. It is common for the San Juan valley to have a visible inversion at about 2,000ft AGL. Pilots exercising patience and hanging onto a good thermal can break through the inversion and soar the stronger ridge and thermal lift above the inversion on the San Juan Mtns. Not commonly flown by paragliders during midday due to the stronger winds above the inversion and turbulent thermals. Evenings often offer a spectacular glass off. Early afternoon during winter / morning or evening glass off during summer. Mid-day flying on strong thermal/active days can be very rowdy and potentially dangerous. Most flyable season(s):  April through October, Occasional days in winter if snow pack allows access to launch. Paragliding not recommended mid-day in warmer months. For mid-day conditions, experienced H3/P3 or higher, is recommended.

Hang gliders use an earthen launch ramp located to the North of launch. There are 2 dedicated Paraglider launch areas are located just to the south of the hang glider ramp. There are several flags below launch that indicate wind direction and thermals. The launch is on US Forest Service land and minimally improved.

To access launch pilots typically drive the 4WD road that requires higher clearance especially near launch. Please do not attempt driving up without 4WD. Launch parking is limited. Make sure you are parked completely clear of the road at launch.

On Launch, hang gliders typically set up to the north and paragliders to the south. Pilots must ensure they have good launch techniques and paraglider pilots need to be aware of the danger of being dragged into hang gliders setup behind their launch location.

Hang Glider Launch Ramp
Villa Grove Hang Glider Launch Ramp

Paraglider Launch
Villa Grove Paraglider Launch
Landing

Primary LZ is next to the road to launch, about 2.1 miles from launch at 8000ft. Almost the whole San Luis valley is landable, making outlandings easy; however, be cautions of rocks, cactus patches, and scrub oak.

The San Luis valley is known for strong thermals and gust fronts. Mid-day landings can be tricky.

RMHPA insures the private property to the SW of the primary landing zone. If you land at this residence you need to be a member of RMHPA.

Site Considerations
  • Understand density altitude and how it affects launch and landing characteristics (HA endorsement strongly recommended).
  • Check the winds aloft. Recommended Hang Glider range: below 10 to 20 MPH at 18,000 feet. Recommended Paraglider range: below 5 to 15 MPH at 18,000 feet.
  • Recommended Pilot Rating - Hang 2 for hanglider pilots and P2 for paraglider pilots during morning and late evening. Hang 3, P 3-4 other times. Winds can increase suddenly, making it dangerous for paragliding midday.
  • Training in fast descent techniques strongly advised (SIV courses).
  • High clearance 4WD vehicles required for the road to launch.
  • Consider carrying supplemental Oxygen.
  • If spectators are present they can safely watch either hang glider or paraglider launches from the parking area.
  • If you climb to the ridge above launch be aware of the potential for compression. Winds near the ridge may be substantially stronger at ridge line. For paragliders a 15 MPH in the valley compress along the ridgeline to the point where you may get blown over the back.
  • Beware of the strong venturi in Hayden Pass.
  • PGs have been blown “over the back” when upper winds are strong or due to the venturi at Hayden pass. The area on the East side of the ridge is a burned wilderness area that is not landable (tree spikes) until you fly past the burn area to the town of Coaldale.
  • All pilots desiring to fly Villa Grove should talk with pilots that have flown Villa Grove and be thoroughly briefed on its hazards.
  • Launch is owned by the US Forest Service. The Sangre De Cristo Wilderness boundry begins just above launch.
  • Almost all of the San Luis Valley has open areas to land but do not land in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Check with local pilots for other restricted landing areas.
  • Air Space: Villa Grove is in class G airspace up to 1200’ above the surface, above 1200’ it is Class E airspace. There are scattered small air fields and some victor airways around the Valley. Strongly consider portable Oxygen, and stay under 18,000 MSL.
  • Connect with local pilots on the forum rmhpa.org/messageboard. Ask a RMHPA member about the WhatsApp group.

There are several other sites to fly in the area, including Whale, which faces SE. It is most often flown in the summertime before about 11am. Later in the day the wind often comes over the back, but this site is very relable in the morning. Launch is about 10 miles NW of the Villa Grove launch. Probably the nicest launch above 12,000ft MSL you will ever see!