Now that winter has arrived -- albeit later than usual-- it came without snow, and so we make do on this first week of January with incredible ice. At our door is now the finest of natural skating rinks, acres and acres of polished frozen Bear Lake.
We have ice skating, kick-sledding and yesterday an iceboat arrived. I was so inspired by the ice and it’s polishing wind that I spent an hour in the garage building a skate sail. I have done this once before and reveled in the speed that can be attained with a scrap of tarp and some wood strips. Ice-skate sail was a popular sport a hundred years ago in the northeast, so there are many designs for skate sails to be found in old magazines or on the web.
It is still is big in the Scandinavian countries where folks are even more avid winter sports enthusiast than Alaskans.
This skate sail is handheld and measures about sixty-six inches on a side. I made it from a six by eight plastic tarp cut to a square and attached to one inch spruce spars with staples and zip-ties. The wood pieces are tied together with zip-ties also through holes I drilled. The design is very much like a kite. In fact, my first skate sail was just that, a giant kite in the traditional diamond shape. Plans for this sail can be found at: http://frozentime.se/skiing/segel_english.html. Or search for “skate sail” and find another great design. I found a great video on Youtube from 1926 of skate sailors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yVWg7-KFe0
I tested my sail last night in the moonlight and again this morning. In winds above ten miles an hour it scoots me along nicely and at fifteen I was flying. Madelyn and I with went out on the ice after dinner to glory in the moon glow on ice with snow covered peaks in the background. Without headlamps we could cruise along on our great glass table of a lake as if we owned it. In the distance we could see the starlike headlamps of the neighbors on their little patch of perfect January without snow.