Many world distance and speed records have been broken using ridge or wave lift. Under the right conditions, these lift sources can extend for hundreds of miles from sunrise to sunset. Ridge or wave lift is often more consistent than thermals, allowing long, straight stretches at high speed.
Cross-country flight on ridge lift poses some special problems and considerations. Often, the best lift is very close to the ridge crest where the air can be quite turbulent. Great pilot concentration is needed over several hours close to terrain in rough conditions for longer flights. On relatively low ridges, (e.g., in the eastern United States) ridge lift may not extend very high, so the pilot is never too far from a potential off-field landing. These are not conditions for the beginning cross-country pilot. In milder conditions, gaps in the ridge may require thermaling to gain enough height to cross the gap. Ridge lift can provide a place to temporarily wait for thermals to generate. For instance, if cumulus have spread out to form a stratus layer shading the ground and eliminating thermals, a wind facing slope can be used to maintain soaring flight until the sun returns to regenerate thermals.
Wave lift can also provide opportunities for long and/or fast cross-country flights. Most record flights have been along mountain ranges; flights in excess of 2,000 kilometers having been flown in New Zealand and along the Andes. In the United States, speed records have been set using the wave in the lee of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In theory, long-distance flights could also be made by climbing high in wave, then gliding with a strong tailwind to the next range downwind for another climb. Special consideration for pilot physiology (cold, oxygen, etc.) and airspace restrictions are needed when considering a cross-country flight using wave lift.
Convergence zones can also be used to enhance cross-country speed. Even if the convergence is not a consistent line but merely acts as a focus for thermals, dolphin flight is often possible, making glides over long distances possible without thermaling. When flying low, awareness of local, small-scale convergence can help the pilot find thermal triggers, enabling climb back to a comfortable cruising height.
It is possible to find ridge, thermal, wave, and even convergence lift during one cross-country flight. Optimum use of the various lift sources requires mental agility but makes for an exciting and rewarding flight.