2012 World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships in Pure Michigan

Last week, the 2012 World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships were held in St. Ignace. For those of you that are not familiar with ice sailing or would just like to know more, check out this blog post from earlier in the month that explains the championships and how ice sailing works. More than 40 athletes from 12 countries were represented at the championships (including participants from Bulgaria and Cuba, the first time those countries participated). We caught up with Dan Hill, president of Action Sports Enterprises and the coordinator of the 2012 World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships to get a recap.

Opening Ceremonies

The opening ceremonies were a festive affair, with many leaders of the St. Ignace community, including Mayor Paul Grondin, in attendance. Members of the Ojibwa Indian tribe were on hand and played a big role in the festivities. They cooked a big meal and did a friendship dance with all the athletes and Indian drummers and hoop dancers from Arizona also performed. The event also revealed a Traditional Finnish wood sauna that was placed on the ice for free use for anybody looking to keep warm. The opening ceremonies also honored Heath Robinson, a Navy Seal who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011.

School Support

There was a great surprise during the week, as a class of schoolchildren stopped by to meet the athletes, who entertained the students by pulling them on sleds and talking about their countries and culture. The event was such a success that later in the week, all classes in grades 1-8 stopped by to meet the athletes. The students also made posters for the athletes to take home. For many of the athletes, it was the highlight of the week.

Closing Ceremonies

The wing used in ice sailing looks very similar to an eagle’s wing. For the closing ceremonies, a member of the Ojibwa tribe took a block of ice and carved a wing with the logo of the championships right onto the ice. A chef also made Bananas Foster and other desserts that incorporated fire to give the closing ceremonies a fun “fire and ice” theme.

The support from the St. Ignace community was fantastic and the North American championships will be held in St. Ignace next year. For more information about the championships and to see results from the races, check out the World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships Web site.

Ice Sailing in Pure Michigan

Dan Hill is president of Action Sports Enterprises and the coordinator of the 2012 World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships, being held Feb. 20 – 26 in St. Ignace. He was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. For more information about these events, check out www.wissa2012.com or www.KiteWingNorthAmerica.com.

Q: For somebody new to the sport, what is ice sailing?

A: Ice sailing is essentially powering sports that you already enjoy either by the environment or by wind. That includes skating, skiing and snowboarding. You do those same events that you love, but now you are doing them either directly on ice or on ice that has snow on top.

There are three different kinds of devices used for ice sailing. They are:

The wing – The wing is almost like a mini hang-glider. You’re not harnessed in and really feel the wind.

The kite – The kite is like a parachute that is attached to you. For the kite, you’ll need an instructor to harness you in.

The sled – If you’ve ever seen wind surfing, you know what the sled is like. You hold onto the sail and have either skis or blades on to navigate over the snow and ice.

Q: What equipment and skills do you need to be a good ice sailor?

A: To be a good ice sailor, you’ll need similar skills to a sailor – most importantly, being able to read the winds and then adjust accordingly. It helps to be strong in order to hold onto the wing, kite and sled, but if you can’t read the wind, you won’t be able to go very fast.

Q: Ice sailing is done all over the world, correct?

A: That’s correct. Ice sailing is done all over the world and is very popular in places like Finland or Russia.

In the United States, Michigan is one of the more popular places. Since this is a sport driven by wind, you just need a lake or a field and a strong wind and you’re golden.

Q: Why is St. Ignace a great spot to host the World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships?

A: When I was looking for places to hold the event, I had looked at places like Chicago, but I was in the area eating at the Mackinac Grill in St. Ignace and I saw that St. Ignace was holding the Youth Pond Hockey Championship. It is right around the same time as our event and they already have the equipment that we’ll need for our championships. St. Ignace will continue to be the host city every year and will really become the hub for ice sailing in the state.

In addition to great ice and wind conditions (the wind averages about 27 miles per hour), the town is extremely accommodating. They have a lot of fun activities and you can even skate or ski right up to the local pizza place or museum. Our participants like having things to do right around the event.

St. Ignace is also a great location because of the options they provide for our events in case the weather is not cooperating.  This event is being held in the United States for the first time in 17 years!

Q: What kind of events are at the championships?

A: At the championships, we have events for the sled, wing and kite divisions. We’ll have slalom races for the sledders and the wings where they will race on ice that has been smoothed over with a Zamboni.  We’ll also have special courses for the kiters and the wingers, including some freestyle aerials and jumps.

We’ll have some beginners at the event and everybody can compete in every race if they would like. On a good course, a good racer can travel as fast as 50 or 60 miles per hour. It all depends on the conditions.