Batten down the hatches |

Batten down the hatches

Shauna Farnell

There’s one vantage point to enjoy the mountains many people living in and visiting Summit County don’t immediately think of.

From the middle of Lake Dillon, sailors can see every surrounding peak, from North Peak in Keystone to the Ten Mile and Gore ranges. Although water levels in the lake are lower than they’ve been in years, the depth still reaches around 200 feet in the middle of the lake, where passengers on wind-driven crafts would never know the water is receding around the parameters.

Sailing programs at the Frisco and Dillon marinas are in full swing this time of year, and staff members at each vouch that there is not a better time to learn to sail.

“The scenery in Summit County is some of the best you’ll see anywhere, you can get that on a mountain bike, but from the water, it’s just amazing,” said Rachel Ryckman, supervisor at Osprey Adventures, which operates the Frisco Marina. “And the heat is easier to take too. It’s still hot, but being on the water, it’s just relaxing. And boating is something everyone can do, from grandmas to babies.”

The sailing scene doesn’t dominate local recreation the same way biking and skiing does, but there is a definite addiction many individuals find in wind-propelled crafts.

“I love it out here,” said Dillon Marina sailing instructor David Cope from aboard his boat, “Hooligan.” “The wind is your engine. It’s one of the most relaxing feelings you’ll ever have. For all the people that think sailing is a ton of work, any time they sail some place like The Caribbean that has prevailing winds 24 (hours a day), they’ll see you can set your sail from one island to the next, and never have to touch it.”

Fitness and athletic prowess are of no consequence when it comes to sailing. And in addition to introductory sailing lessons, certifications are available at the Frisco and Dillon marinas, which are both affiliates of the American Sailing Association. While the Dillon Marina has detailed 12-hour certification courses available, the Frisco Marina is the local headquarters of WindRider of the Rockies. WindRiders are different than traditional sail or keelboats in that they are smaller, faster and, although they are wind-propelled, passengers steer with their feet.

“The program starts with the smallest WindRider, and, within a half-hour, (students) can be sailing,” said Tom Emrick of Frisco Marina and local director of WindRider of the Rockies. “They’re very simple. There is an ease to the operation and an ease to set up that makes them very appealing. You don’t need a crew. You don’t need people with you to go out sailing. They have padded seats and a beverage holder. The most important part of any kind of sailing is being able to read the direction of the wind. Once you know that, you can go anywhere.”

Once sailors have some concept of wind dynamics, other aspects of sailing come with time on the boat and a rundown of terminology and tools, which, when applied on Lake Dillon, can benefit sailors traveling even the most remote seas.

“In our group lessons, we get everyone doing different things, trimming sails, learning rules of the road, so at the end of our lesson, we get them out on their own boat,” Cope said. “The water level is low, but we’re still getting people up and running in sailing and the love of the sport. Lake Dillon is Lake Dillon. We still get wind, and wind that really swirls. It’s fun to teach here because you get a lot of hands on sail trim. One of the things we tell people is, if you can sail Lake Dillon, you can sail anywhere in the world. That’s one reason we get all the Regatta races on the weekends; it’s a challenging lake to sail. We’ll get the winds kicking up, we get the thunderstorm gusts. You have to be prepared for that on this lake. That’s a benefit of learning to sail, too. You get to know all about weather prediction, and watching the wind.”

BO: The Dillon and Frisco Marinas offer mid-week specials for locals. Prices vary for sailing instruction and rentals depending on the length of the lesson and size of the boat. For information on sailing at the Dillon Marina, visit or call (970) 468-5100. For more information on sailing at the Frisco Marina, call (970) 668-5573, ext. 206. The Frisco Marina will offer a special teen sailing program beginning July 13.

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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