National STOL’s 6th event of the season, Rocky Mountain STOL, set sky high records in beautiful Pinedale, WY, this past weekend! After a strong showing with its inaugural 2022 event, 2023 was bigger and better than ever. With 32 registered competitors and an estimated crowd of 850, Rocky Mountain STOL more than doubled in size from year one to year two.
Local event hosts Angela Douglas, John Douglas, and Micah Olson from Emblem Aviation prepared a full weekend of fun and hospitality in the mountains. Competitors were treated to an opening dinner at Half Moon Lake Lodge on Thursday evening. A “Paint and Sip” was offered concurrently with practice Friday morning. Those family members and partners who chose to express their creativity also enjoyed tasting local wines from Jackson Hole Winery. The Town of Pinedale and TOP Flight treated all pilots and volunteers to lunch following practice, and then a community concert in the park gave attendees the opportunity to mingle with locals and explore downtown during the evening.
When the sun rose Saturday morning, surprise overnight arrivals kicked the competition into high gear:
In the Rookie Class…A trio of Pinedale locals took the top three spots! William Mecham in a Rans S-7S had the edge on a series of Cessna 182s to take first place. Jamie Burgess of Wyoming Aero Photo (based at Ralph Wenz Field) placed second, and local host John Douglas rounded out the top three.
In the Touring Class…Brandon Corn continued his perfect attendance on the 2023 season series, and retook the top spot in his Cessna 205. New challenger Matt Schanz in a Cessna 180B finished just 10 feet behind, with familiar face Kurt Leaders (Cessna 185) finishing in 3rd.
In the Backcountry Class…The most talked about class for those following the series this year! Until Friday afternoon, it appeared that series regular Jeff Pohl (Cessna 170B) would be competing again a number of local challengers, including young Andy Jones (Husky A1-C), who won the competition last year. Then, rival Austin Clemens flew in early Friday evening. Not to be outdone, Backcountry season points leader Micah Lindstrom departed MN around 6pm, buzzing the campground to announce his arrival to Pinedale in the overnight hours.
When the dust settled after competition, Lindstrom took first place by a mere 18 feet. Pohl finished in second place, with Clemens in 3rd. In a little friendly family competition, Andy Jones took 4th place in front of his father, Bob Jones, by 20 feet.
In the Adventure Class…Brian Shirley, flying his brand new Legend MOAC, took first place over returning competitor Jody Card in a Kitfox 7. After a close call on a scratch on his second landing, Keith Lange (Piper PA18-125) took 3rd place.
In the Sport Class…Rick Boardman (CubCrafters SS) remains undefeated at events he attends in 2023. Joel Milloway in his unmistakable tiger-striped Rans S-7 finished second, while another close call on a scratch put Collin Caneva (CubCrafters SS) in 3rd by a mere 4 feet.
In the Unlimited Class…Rocky Mountain records were set and broken time and time again as fan favorites Steve Henry and Hal Stockman went head to head in the Unlimited Class. In the end, Henry seemed to defy the laws of physics (and density altitude) with 13, 24, and 12 foot take offs at an elevation of over 7000 feet. His best combined run of 76 feet took first place, with Stockman finishing in second.
Rick Boardman also won the Pilot Performance Index Award, with Andy Jones taking home Most Consistent Pilot. Steve Henry was named the Grand Champion. Finally, a new award was premiered at Rocky Mountain STOL! For the very first time, spectators were invited to vote for the Ralph Wenz Fan Favorite Award. With 19% of the vote at the close of competition, Collin Caneva was named the Fan Favorite of the day. Many thanks to the Wenz family, as well as the anonymous donor who graciously provided a cash prize for this award.
The weekend wrapped up with a closing dinner at Pitchfork Fondue and campfires late into the night. Pilots and staff remarked time and time again on the incredible hospitality and support from the local hosts, volunteers, and community.
For full National STOL results from Sodbusters STOL, including updated season standings, visit https://nationalstol.com/2023-season-standings/
Visit the National STOL social media pages for plenty of photos and videos from the event. Livestream recordings of National STOL’s practice, qualifying, and finals competitions can be viewed in their entirety on YouTube.
Our next event is Music City STOL in Gallatin, TN, September 1-2! Full event details can be found at nationalstol.com/musiccity.