Frozen Sailing

ice_sailingThere are plenty of ways to spend a cold, windy January in Southwest Montana. The region’s breweries, distilleries and cafes are definitely an option. Ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, those too are options, but really kind of normal, don’t you think? Why not try something different, something that makes even downhill skiing and snowmobiling seem tame? Why not strap yourself into a fiberglass shell supported by three narrow runners and let the wind hurtle you across the frozen surface of Canyon Ferry at speeds of between 30 to 70 plus miles an hour?

Canyon Ferry is a winter playground, and weekends find the area full of people ice skating, ice fishing, playing ice hockey and doing other things that start with the word “ice,” so I can’t say for sure that ice sailing is the most popular sport on the frozen lake, but it is probably the wildest. Ice boats-narrow fiberglass hulls on top of three runners and fixed to a large triangular sail-hurtle along canyon ferry from Christmas until March, maybe even longer if the lake’s two feet of surface ice stays frozen. In the last 40 years or so, Canyon Ferry has become a destination for ice sailing. The lake is wide and long in an open valley, giving ice sailors plenty of room to maneuver and make the most of the steady wind that blows through the valley. The combination of generally dry conditions and frequent wind helps keep the lake’s ice smooth and free of snow, perfect conditions for ice sailing.

One of the best ways to learn more about ice sailing on Canyon Ferry is take MT Highway 287 to the Silos boat launch, which is about 7 miles north of Townsend, on any weekend. There are almost always ice sailors out there. They seem to know all that there is to know about ice sailing at Canyon Ferry.

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