Big Sky Journal: Montana Ice Sailing

The winter tradition of sail-powered ice boating finds the right combination of ice, wind, and speed-seeking participants in Montana

in Winter 2022 | Feature Stories | Written by Andrew McKean | Photography by Sean R. Heavey
Just as surfers will spend the balance of their year waiting for just the right wave, and skiers will rearrange their lives in pursuit of fluffy mountain powder, so do ice boaters watch for fresh ice and stiff winds. They’re monitoring long- and short-term weather forecasts for their version of powder days, says Flathead Lake ice-boat builder John Eisenlohr, one of the dozens of Montana winter sailors who travel the West in search of perfect ice. “For us, that’s the first black ice thick enough to play on, plus a certain amount of wind,” Eisenlohr says. “Not too much wind, and no packed snow on the ice. And, if I’m really lucky, the ice will have just a little stippling on it to hold the runners.” Continue reading.

HWS Update: Try Again in 2023

Photo: Pat Heppert

Ice Sailors:

With regret, we must announce that the Hard Water Summit will not be happening this year. Mother Nature decided she wanted an extended period of warm days, lots of sunshine and nights barely below freezing. The snow is, indeed, gone, but this weather pattern is leaving us with lots of slush that will likely only get deeper.

We appreciate your enthusiasm for this adventure and we may decide to give it a go again next year. We’ll have to consider whether doing the event in the same season as a DN Gold Cup in the US makes sense. If you have any input on this question, we’d love to hear it. From a timing standpoint, we may also move up our target week to the first week of March. This would steer us clear of any conflict with land sailing events and possibly increase the likelihood that we’d have the ice and weather we need. Again, feel free to let us know what you think.

Of course we are a bit disappointed, but then again, we are blessed to not be hiding from Russian artillery as we go about our daily lives. Keep the Faith!

Your HWS Team,

Daniel, Sean and Deb

HWS: On Hold…Still Hopeful

On Hold…Still Hopeful

As of this morning, the Hard Water Summit remains on hold. The weather on the Fort Peck Reservoir has remained cold, so the drifts are still too large and stiff. Warm weather is coming the week of March 13. We’ll monitor the weather that week to see if we get the melt we need to clean up the snow, and the below freezing temps at night to keep the ice firm. Please stand by. We intend to make a final call one way or the other on Thursday, March 17.

Think Ice!

Your HWS Team,
Daniel, Sean and Deb

New HWS Target Week March 21 – 24

Adjusting Our Sails

New HWS Target Week: March 21 – 24

Unfortunately, snow has covered the ice at Fort Peck. Mother Nature decided she didn’t want us during the target week, and until she decides what she wants to do, we are on hold. Weather models show a significant warming trend next week. We want to put everyone on standby with hopes to hold the HWS on the third target week of March 21 – 24.

Ice sailors are eternal optimists, and we are holding out hope that the snow will disappear. We will continue to keep you informed about conditions. We understand it may be challenging to adjust your schedules, but we will still try to make this happen if Fort Peck ice comes in. All the pieces are in place, and the snow will soften out with a bit of luck.

We will keep you in the loop and send a weather update on Monday, March 7.

Your HWS Team,

Daniel, Sean and Deb

HWS Update: Polishing the Playground

Polishing The Playground
We can officially report now that the inaugural Hard Water Summit will not be taking place during our early option week. All signs are “Go” for our target dates of March 13 – 18.

Here are a couple shots from yesterday, March 1. Over the next 10 days, there is hardly a dusting of snow in the forecast and it’s going to be warm during the days. That means our playground will continue to get polished, setting us up for an epic event! If you are not yet registered, don’t delay any longer. Register here. Hotel rooms and event commemorative vest, both which are limited, are being offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Your HWS Team,

Daniel, Sean and Deb