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.

Hard Water Summit Update

Via Daniel Hearn:

The last couple weeks many of us have gotten our first ice time for the season. There was an epic weekend in Madison, so check out the 4LIYC Facebook page for amazing visuals from a number of photographers/videographers who showed up to capture the excitement. Our friends in Michigan and Ohio also got a bunch of sailing in. And our friends in the northeast were looking to pull off the Doc Fellows Regatta. Haven’t heard if that happened, or not.


The upcoming weekend looks to be exciting, too, with the International Skeeter Association Regatta tentatively called on for Lake Mendota, in Madison Friday through Sunday. And starting on Sunday, January 23, the DN National Championships, likely somewhere in the Central Region, are slated to kick off.


As long as we’re in the groove, check out our playpen for the Hard Water Summit in Glasgow, Montana this March. This footage was also shot over last weekend. That’s miles and miles of hard water, ice junkies! And 25 below zero last week had to have built some major thickness. Video link here.


You’re not going to want to miss this one! If you’re interested, visit the event website and fill out our short survey. 80 sailors have already done so. How about you?

Hard Water Summit Event Website

Photo: Sean R. Heavey