Nestled in the shadow of the Continental Divide at 9,017 feet, Colorado’s Lake Dillon is a sparkling mountain gem with 26 miles of shoreline and 3,300 acres of surface water. This popular boating lake has the distinction of being home to the highest yacht club in North America. We recently sat down with Scott Snyder, commodore of the Dillon Yacht Club, to talk about boating’s exceptional Rocky Mountain high (and we’re not referring to the legal green stuff).
What are boating conditions like in Colorado’s high country?
We generally have two or three weather patterns colliding due to the Continental Divide. The wind patterns are nowhere near consistent. On other bodies of water, you might see wind shifts of 10 degrees and call those big shifts. Here, you’ll see shifts of 40 to 50 degrees, or the wind will do a complete 180, with a shift back 20 seconds later. The velocity runs up and down quickly too; you can go from 5 to 25 knots in a heartbeat. It keeps you on your toes. The good news is that there’s no chop, so you can read the water surface easily.
Lake Dillon has been known as a sailor’s lake for a long time. Is it a good place for powerboaters?
About a third of the boaters up here are powerboaters, and I think those numbers are going to keep growing. Pontoon boats are extremely popular, and we also have a lot of classic boats. In fact, our race committee boat, Polaris, is a 1971 StanCraft; it’s our pride and joy. Our yacht club is developing more programming specifically for powerboaters, and all summer you’ll see people cruising, sunbathing, picnicking and tucking into all these great little gunkholes that are only accessible if you have a swing-keel sailboat or a powerboat.
But no swimming in the lake, correct?
Lake Dillon is a Denver Water reservoir, so you’re not allowed to swim, ride PWCs or go water-skiing. But we see a lot of people kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding. You wouldn’t want to swim anyway; summer water temperatures are snowmelt-cold, and hypothermia is a real possibility.
Do you have any tips for first-time visitors?
Bring sunscreen, and make sure to hydrate! People underestimate the sun and affects of altitude. As far as the lake is concerned, it’s a pretty easy lake to motor around, and both marinas (Dillon and Frisco) do a great job of laying out the best spots to explore. If you’re bringing your own boat from sea level, though, have the marina staff check the engine and provide a tuneup if necessary. Altitude can affect performance.
Do you remember your first time boating on Lake Dillon?
I couldn’t stop looking at the mountains. To me, it was the most beautiful boating venue in the world; it was just so different. I just couldn’t believe I had a boat in this environment. … I was freezing, by the way!