Steiger arrives mid-October to conduct the preparatory research of typical weather patterns and winds aloft.
Location Scouting and permissions to launch are required from a variety of locations in order to have the freedom to make last minute launch decisions which correlate the winds aloft for the day with the relatively sparse landing zones across the park.
National Weather Service Imaging does not accurately depict Zion and the Google Earth satellite image for the area was taken on an overcast day, making ground detail appear to be friendly landing conditions until actual onsite inspection reveals pinion pines, juniper and Enchanted Forests of sage brush at 100% density as high as 5 feet tall.
Pilots must take the necessary time to familiarize themselves with the typical weather patterns and winds aloft in order to plan a crossing over unforgiving obstacles such as mountains, bodies of water and vast wilderness.
In one sense an Alpine Crossing is a simple matter of ascending into a flowing river of wind and riding it over the obstacle then descending to the tranquil meadows beyond.
That is all very fine….until you find there are no tranquil meadows beyond.
The specific challenge with Zion is that there quite simply is no place to land.
Buffalo Ranch and Clear Creek Ranch offer beautiful fields on the eastern border of the park, but since the launch point is so far away from the landing zone the range of winds can vary less than 5 degrees.
Steiger takes advantage of optimal winds to fly over The Guardians, West Temple, Eagle Crags, Canaan Mountain, and the Vermillion Cliffs into Apple Valley.
Under the right conditions he will navigate into the Canyon outside the park and ride the river of airflow downstream and away from the park only to ascend into the upper winds to continue on to Apple Valley and the Arizona Strip.