Landlocked Park City sailors rejoiced when Jordanelle Reservoir opened for business in 1995. The fledgling water quickly drew an enthusiastic crowd from Park City and surrounding areas. Now powerboaters, Jet Skiers, and anglers rule the sprawling reservoir and state park on summer weekends, but during the week the water is dotted by a fleet of colorful sails riding high on the mountain winds.
Jordanelle Marina, just 10 miles from Park City’s Main Street and 6,200 feet above sea level, is the perfect launch site for a mountain sailing adventure. A spacious boat ramp provides easy launches for both dry dockers and those who trailer from home. “Jordanelle sailing is great,” says Geoff Hurwitch, founder and president of the Park City Sailing Association (PCSA).
Summer heat rising from Provo Canyon and the Heber Valley generates a reliable thermal breeze, ideal for leisurely sailing, he explains. “The winds are usually not as strong as on the ocean, and they’re more variable,” adds the Boston transplant and veteran ocean sailor, though he admits low water in recent years has been frustrating. “It’s like the tide went out and never came back in,” he says.
PCSA evolved from a few local, fish-out-of-water ocean sailors staging Tuesday-evening regattas in small-but-fast Laser sailboats. “We really didn’t want to have just a bunch of grown-ups sailing around forever,” says Hurwitch. “We wanted to teach others, especially kids, to sail. We felt a responsibility to pass on the tradition and culture of sailing within Park City. We really wanted to share our passion.”
The association was created in 2008 with an official mission statement: “to promote the sport of sailing to adults and children in the greater Park City community.” In just six years, PCSA’s fleet grew from a few Lasers to vessels ranging from minuscule, eight-foot Optimists, sailed by the younger kids, to the J22, a sleek and fast keelboat suitable for novice or seasoned sailors alike. The PCSA’s popular junior sailing program offers day-camp-format instruction—which also includes shoreside activities like science projects, seamanship, arts and crafts, and games—for kids ages 8 to 18. And teenage student sailors can also enroll in a three-month junior racing series. More than 300 area youngsters enrolled in their junior sailing program last summer alone.
Hurwitch likely speaks for most sailors when he reflects on his lengthy love affair with the sport, rooted firmly in its social aspect. “I like the challenge of it. Every day on the water is different, and conditions are constantly changing,” Hurwitch grins. “And there’s not much that’s better than a day on the water with friends.”
Joining the Crew
PCSA (parkcitysailing.org) offers learn-to-sail programs for children and adults at the Jordanelle State Park and Marina (stateparks.utah.gov/jordanelle-state-park) as well as annual memberships. It also hosts frequent summer barbecue socials open to the public.