Ice boaters are eternal optimists

Published on February 8th, 2021

A few winters ago on the frozen shore of Dillon Reservoir in Colorado, Dan Burnett was surprised to meet a sailing all-star, Buddy Melges, whom Burnett learned was on a family skiing trip here in Summit County.

Burnett was even more surprised by the following interaction.

The visiting legend had just watched the local fly across the ice in the extremely niche act of ice boating. “He said, ‘Could I take your boat out for a quick ride?’” Burnett recalls.

No was the answer.

“I mean, how obnoxious could I be? It was like telling Mario Andretti he couldn’t drive your car!” Burnett says. “But it makes the point: You don’t lend out your ice boat, because it could smash into bits, and the person will get killed, and that would not be good.”

Such is the risk Burnett has run for decades on Dillon Reservoir, along with a few other lifelong, retirement-age sailors who know no offseason.

The large body of water under the gaze of the Gore Range turns solid, and on perfect afternoons, the wind blows just right for a thrill unlike anything else — unlike even the famed skiing steeps surrounding them.

With a slender hull sitting atop three metal runners or “skates,” ice boats can soar three to four times the speed of the wind. For the small group on Dillon Reservoir, 80 mph is not uncommon. – Full story

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