Creating a sailing haven at 6200-feet

Published on September 28th, 2020

From Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah, a 40 minute drive upwards along Interstate 80 offers well known ski resorts in Park City and Deer Valley, but during the summer season, adjoining Jordanelle State Park has accrued a reputation of its own. Here’s a report from North Sails:


In the Wasatch Mountain Range, the team at Park City Sailing has created a sailing haven, where people from all backgrounds, in all stages of life, have experiences and make memories on the water that stretch beyond the sport.

Park City generally brings to mind winter Olympic games, extreme snow sports, and high-end resorts, but nestled under the slopes of Deer Valley Ski Resort is the Jordanelle Reservoir, 6,200 feet above sea-level where Executive Director Scott VerMerris conducts socially impactful sailing programs from May to October. VerMerris studied human development and family studies and has an extensive background in alternative forms of education and therapy.

The adaptive program accommodates people of all abilities, adapting their fleet to handle sailors with visual impairment, amputation, cognition, autism, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment among others.

Similarly, the therapeutic program is a space for those whose impairments may not be visible to those around them. Park City Sailing is an innovator in the utilization of mindfulness as a component of the sailing experience. Participants include veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, struggling with addiction, children, and families supporting a family member with mental or chronic illness.

The program is a recipient of the Robbie Pierce Award for outstanding adaptive programming.

The idea began with Ken Block, former Vice President director of Park City Sailing. Block is retired now, but his passion for the programs is still a major part of his life, and he is involved with countless organizations that promote accessibility in sailing.

Block did not enter the sport of sailing in a typical way. He did not come from a family of sailors, but he knew he had an emotional connection to the sport, so he worked his way onto several Swans competing offshore and eventually he campaigned 3 International Etchells.

Initially, Park City Sailing started as a Tuesday night around-the-cans Laser sailing, but with Block’s passion, it grew into the program it is today. A turning point was when the SEAS program in Sheboygan put out a notice that they were looking to donate their fleet of eight Elliot 6 Meters.

Park City Sailing worked very hard to get the boats, calling upon now retired North Sails expert Tom McLaughlin to help them close the deal. McLaughlin was one of the program’s first and best volunteers. Full report.

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