Windy Point

H4/P4 for HA, TURB, RLF
33.396142° -105.764624° 1,950' AGL LZ  10,000' MSL
LZ 33.385098° -105.748773°

If you choose to fly at this site, you must take full responsibility for your actions, and recognize that you are fully and solely liable for any damage incurred by yourself, to others, or to others’ property. This site is unimproved with significant safety issues, including potentially challenging wind and thermal conditions. This site is uninsured, unmanaged, and unimproved.

Revised 20201223

General Info

This thermalling site is the result of the tireless efforts of Riker Davis (H5) of Ruidoso, NM.
Windy Point is on Hwy. 532 (Ski Run Rd) near mile marker 10, faces east, and can be flown with light and variable winds anywhere from northeast to southeast. It is best in the AM on days that begin clear.  Cumulus development is inevitable later in the morning and conditions remain good to about 11:30AM when OD begins.  Some of the best days are those with zero winds forecast – when you expect light and variable conditions.  This site is strictly thermal as ridge lift created by easterly winds is turbulent from the many peaks, spines, and canyons in the vicinity.  The magic of Windy Point results from the east facing terrain heating up from the early morning sun.  This creates the upslope thermal cycles which provide light to soarable lift starting around 9AM.  During the monsoon season (July and August) it can OD early and the window to fly and land can close before 10AM.  Past this time, lift becomes extreme and pilots can encounter virga, rain, and/or hail.  During other times of the year the site can be flyable all day if winds are light and variable. 

The HG launch at Windy Point is at the tourist lookout. The PG launch requires a 25 minute hike up the spine.

Directions to Launch

Windy Point overlook - this is the HG launch and the start of the hike to the PG launch
33°23'46.1"N 105°45'52.7"W
Co Rd 532, Alto, NM 88312
goo.gl/maps/FSSacchLS7yaaZAQ8

Windy Point PG Launch
33°23'55.3"N 105°46'05.3"W
Capitan Municipal Schools, NM
goo.gl/maps/RCWLmFxfme7DqiRX8

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
Riker Davis about to launch from Windy Point.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
Riker heads out but he won't be in the air for long as OD is about to begin.  Rain is already visible in the distance.

The HG launch is right off the edge of the Windy Point scenic overlook. Only 4 or 5 steps are possible so at least an 8 mph wind is needed for a safe launch. PG pilots should use the upper launch as it gives plenty of room to setup and manage the wing. It is a 25 - 40 minute hike through pleasant mountain meadows, the 2012 fire has made the going easier. Be sure to launch from National Forest, not the Wilderness area. The boundary runs more or less along the top of the ridge and includes the knoll. If you are slightly down-slope, where the launch is better and steeper and has less turbulence from cycles that might be coming up the SW aspect of the ridge from Windy Point, you will be ok.

Windy Point PG Launch Map

Ambitious PG pilots may also launch about 50 yards above the HG launch area if the winds are 7-8 or more. There are a few trees to steer through here but enough wind velocity makes it doable.

Steve Crye Aplina 3 September 2018
Steve Crye launching from the upper PG launch September 2018. Photo Ty Bonnnel

LZ

Mescalero Lakes LZ
33.384465,-105.752039
Dropped pin
Near Mescalero Reservation, Mescalero, NM
maps.app.goo.gl/dLyEVDz6EmkEYruF8

The LZ (on Mescalero land) is easily visible from the HG launch but is just out of site from the PG upper launch. The LZ is a grassy meadow between the two fishing lakes in the canyon, an easy glide below. It is high at 8,200 ft. but is plenty big for safe landings by both HG and PG pilots.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NMThis is the view from 100 yards below and south of the upper PG launch.  An arrow marks the LZ.

The Mescalero Apache Indian Tribe graciously allows pilots to land at their campground.  Pilots in the LZ are subject to Indian Tribal law so please be respectful and appreciative. The fee to park at the Mescalero camp is now $15, but if you have a driver, they can meet you outside the gate. Please still bring a small gift for the ticket person at the entrance. The campground is closed October through April so if one attempts flying in the winter you will have to walk out almost a mile to the locked gate at Ski Run road.  PG pilots, however, can land on the road near the gate and save themselves a long hike as the road is closed and there is no traffic. However, landing on the road is a P4 level task due to tall trees on all sides and swirling air.

For the approach to the LZ, you can do steep turns or spirals over the car park area of the Mescalero camp, staying slightly uphill of the powerlines until you are low enough to do s-turns slightly uphill of the powerline. Be ready in case sudden sink drops you down on the wrong side of the lines! If all goes well your final turn to final will be about 50' over the lines, allowing a landing on the dirt road between the upper lake and the lower lake.

Approach to LZ
Approach to LZ. Note the pilot is directly above the power lines and about to turn right. Photo Steve Crye

Restrictions

The area is a patchwork of tribal land, USFS land, and Wilderness Areas. Do not land or launch from Wilderness Areas. Do not land in any tribal land other than the LZ. Do not land in the Ski Area or up near Sierra Blanca peak, YOU WILL BE ARRESTED.

Additional Info and Hazards

Here is a link to a YouTube video of a September PG flight from Windy Point: youtu.be/X0_EgMmeGjc

Do a thorough weather work-up, paying particular attention to the lapse rate and winds aloft. This is a high-altitude mountain site in the SW USA, and conditions can be unpredictable and change from benign to severe with little warning. You will be flying over a spruce and aspen forest with almost no options for landing. Bring a tree-landing kit. Because of the altitude your groudspeeds will be higher than expected. You may need to descend quickly and make a spot landing in a tight, restricted area with high levels of rotor and turbulence from terrain and trees.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
View east from the upper PG launch.  Note the moisture in the air – in less than an hour there will be towering cumulus clouds everywhere.  The LZ is just below the tree line to the lower right.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
View looking up from the upper PG launch.  Sierra Blanca (left) and Lookout Mountain (right) are visible in the background. 

The entire launch area is thick grass.  It is safe and easy to launch here and there is plenty of space to recover from mistakes.  Tired pilots can easily take a nap and relax....  This is one of the only launch sites in the southwest that is huge and grassy.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
Another view straight down the upper PG launch run. 

A pilot can run forever downhill in light winds but it's important to turn right and get out in front and over the spines (where the thermals release).  There is a lot of sink straight out from launch, as we would expect over a canyon.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
Riker on his way up to cloud-base

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
View looking back up to the HG launch area from the LZ.  Pilots should land when the clouds become towering as the lift under them is very strong.  This pilot experienced 1,000'+/min lift at just 10AM in the morning out in front.

Windy Point Ruidoso, NM
A field of iris grass near Windy Point – what an inviting place to fly a glider.