Between tubers, fishers, riders and cruisers, what does a skier have to do for some glass these days?
It's officially the summer. And any skier who shares his water with other lake users knows that the rise in temperature also means a rise in traffic. In fact, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, 72 percent of recreational boating accidents in 2005 occurred in the water-busy months between May and August, not to mention a serious drop in the number of roller-free hours and a palpable surge in lakeside tension.
To find out the best way to deal, we talked to three different skiers on three different lakes. So whether you feel like a big fish in a small pond or a tiny inboard in a sea of pontoons, here are the best ways to enjoy a summer that's full of glass and void of conflict.
Small Private Pond
On Pine Mountain Lake in Groveland, California, the lake users range from year-round homeowners and second-home owners to summer vacationers. And as the name implies, the Pine Mountain Lake Waterski and Wakeboard Club is home to skiers and riders alike.
Despite the idyllic setting nestled in the mountains of Northern California, problems arose when it came to deciding who would use the lake when. “We're on a small lake, and the ski area is very small,” says club cofounder Rick Whitacre. “We're allowed to ski three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening, and only four boats at one time. So we're already heavily restricted [by the lake rules].”
Best course of action: Learn to cooperate.
In an effort to live in peace, the club reached a compromise, designating one of the three water-sports hours for skiers only and calling the other two “blended” hours, when all sports are allowed. “It's worked really well,” he says. “The true hard-core skiers get the best water in the morning and the best water at night and don't have to worry about the wakeboarders churning up larger wakes. If there's only one skier out there, and a wakeboarder wants to do some wakeboarding, they can talk it out. But if they really want that quiet water, they've got it.”
Average Local Lake
Fish Lake is a 150-acre, square-shaped pond in Sturgis, Michigan. With no fingers or coves jutting out from the main body, the water traffic is centralized in one location. So when Kyle Gasnel and about 10 other slalom skiers decided to install a six-ball Insta-Slalom course, they only had one
option. “We put the course right in the middle of the lake,” he says.
Besides running the risk of potential embarrassment during their warm-up passes in such an overexposed location, the Fish Lake skiers also faced the threat of cranky fishermen and wild tubers. “With the Insta-slalom course, you have to worry about the ball lines getting torn apart from the main line,” he says. “Once it was in for a few days, we caught fishermen anchoring their boats and people tubing through it, as we expected.”
Best course of action: Proceed with caution — and a smile.
“Your initial reaction is to raise your temper with people,” he says, “but some of them don't have a clue. Plus, it's a public lake. Even though we paid for the course, we can't stop anyone from using it.” So with their course permit in their hands and friendly smiles on their faces, Gasnel and his crew formed the Fish Lake Ski Club in an effort to raise awareness and respect for the course. “It's all about approach,” he says.
Big Public Body
With 167 miles of shoreline open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Nacimiento Lake is bound to get a little too busy for most skiers' tastes. A popular camping spot in San Luis Obispo County, California, the lake draws fishermen and pleasure boaters all year long.
But all that traffic didn't stop the Far West Water Ski Club from forming in the 1970s or discourage them from installing a slalom course a few years later. Club vice president Bob Edie says, “We needed a place that people could come to ski a slalom course without having other boats causing rollers and getting in the way.”
Best course of action: Hide your setup.
The only thing to do was hide — the course, that is. The club tucked it's setup away in one of the finger bays that extends from the main portion of Nacimiento Lake. These days, the protected area is closed to all boats except those that can track in a straight line while towing a skier (this leaves out jet boats and large outdrives), and a permit is required to enter the cove. Even with such exclusivity, though, Edie says the club isn't in the business of secrecy. “The FWWSC encourages everyone who is curious about slalom skiing to come out and give it a try,” he says. Thanks to the slalom-only setup, those first-timers will have great conditions when they do.
If All Else Fails …
There's no better time than now to relocate to that private ski-lake community of your dreams. Here are three sites worth calling your real-estate agent for.
Swiss Ski School
Location: Clermont, Florida
The digs: Residents have their choice of six different slalom courses, access to an 18-hole golf course and, of course, a front-row view at world-class tournaments like the 2007 WaterSki Magazine Pro Slalom Shootout.
Lots available: The existing 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom houses are available for sale or rent.
More info: swissskischool.com
Location: Allendale, Michigan
The digs: Six lakes, three permanent slalom courses, a jump ramp and trick bay are only the beginning at this development. There are also creature comforts like an indoor pool and an on-site pro shop.
Lots available: Reservations are currently being taken for 60 lakefront lots.
More info: placidwaters.com
Location: Macon, Georgia
The digs: It's a small development by some standards, but the water-ski lake features a permanent slalom course and tournament-regulation specs.
Lots available: Waterfront lots start at $42,400.
More info: southernwaters.info
For a map of even more water-ski communities, check out waterskimag.com/ski_communities.jsp.