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Cold Weather Adventures: The wild and windy sport of ice sailing

Ice sailing at Eleven Mile State Park
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jan 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-15 11:01:31-05

LAKE GEORGE — When the lakes have frozen and the snow has yet to arrive and the wind is just right, you might find, at a few of Colorado's lakes, men and women helming specialized vessels to capture the wind and sail, at speed, across the ice.

It's a somewhat rare sight due to Colorado's volatile weather, "As long as we have these types of conditions," commented Lionel Stepp, an ice sailor that's part of group based out of Loveland, "you don't want to miss a day because as soon as the snow comes and you've got four to five inches, it stops you dead."

However, when ice sailors get a good day out on the ice, it's hard to look away.

Each ice sailing rig, consisting of skate-like blades and large sail, can obtain speeds three-times faster than that of the winds they are sailing on.

"If you've got ten mph wind," stated Stepp, "you can easily obtain 30 mph."

And it's that sort of speed, zipping across the glimmering surface of a frozen lake, that these outdoors individuals truly live for.

"The speed [and] the exhilaration, being out in fresh air; it's a little scary because you have some obstacles with possibly going through the ice or so, but the speed is the real thrill of this."

However, that being said, high wind days are generally something that he avoids.

"Yeah, no 30s [and] no 40s. Like I said, if you're doubling your speed and you've got a 30 mph wind, you're going to sail almost out of control; you've got to be safe. It'll get you so fast that all you can think about is, I need to slow down."

Of course, taking to the ice is always best done with a safety net, and so Stepp recommends always sailing with at least one partner, so that both can keep each other safe.

Stepp says his winter plans include getting out on to the ice as much as possible, and then switching to a similar rig, this time with wheels, in order to land sail throughout the warmer months.

To learn more about ice sailing, you can visit windisfun.com.