Once aloft soaring pilots begin looking for one of three forms of raising air:
- Thermals, which are columns of warm, rising air. Once in a thermal the sailplane circles tightly to stay in the lift until high enough to strike out cross-country in search of the next thermal.
- Ridge lift, which is created by wind flowing up the side of a hill.
- Wave lift which is an especially exciting form of lift and common in the Boulder area. Like the wave behind a boulder in a stream the air bounces upwards behind mountain ranges. Wave flights can reach altitudes well in excess of 30,000ft.
Gliding flights can be simple, local affairs or achieve great altitudes and distances. For instance, the world altitude record in a glider is more than 49000ft. Distance flights of more than 1000 kilometers (660 miles) have been done. The world distance record currently stands at slightly more than 2000 kilometer