Features

It’s no secret that Park City is a melting pot of outdoor lovers from all over the world — people who are drawn by easy access to big peaks and steep slopes and want to bond with like-minded adventurers.

That’s exactly how the Park City Sailing Association started. A bunch of transplants bonded over skiing and discovered they were all avid sailors as well. And so, the first seed of Park City Sailing Association was planted.

In 2008, a few sailors began racing on the Jordanelle Reservoir in single-person Laser boats. They started thinking about ways to grow their small group and make sailing more accessible and ended up forming a nonprofit in 2010.

Scott VerMerris, the executive director of Park City Sailing Association, joined the sailing club in 2009 and helped launch the junior programs, which have become the bread and butter of the association. He says that since the club’s inception, their fleet has grown to around 100 boats, ranging from 8 to 25 feet, including several powerboats. Park City Sailing Association is one of the most active and fast-growing sailing associations in the country, which is incredible given their land-locked location.

At first glance, you might assume the Park City Sailing Association is just a group of privileged sailors getting together on their boats, but the association is all about breaking the sailing stereotype and knocking down barriers for interested sailors. In fact, the reason the association has so many boats is to make sure anyone can get out on the water. And that’s where the Park City Sailing Association’s programs come into play.

One program that Scott is particularly proud of is the association’s partnership with Warrior Sailing, a maritime education and outreach program that gets veterans out on the water. In fact, Utah Wilderness Therapy is what brought Scott to Utah in the first place, so he is passionate about experiential education and recreation therapy. The Park City Sailing Association has also partnered with Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs to study the efficacy of mindfulness and sailing to treat PTSD and substance abuse.

The association’s junior programs also helped start a sailing team at Park City High School and one participant, who started with the club
at the age of 6, recently completed the Olympic sailing trials in Miami. Scott says kids can join the summer sailing programs at age 5, noting
that the club sees almost 500 kids each summer. Once kids have enough experience and aptitude they can join the junior race team, which prepares them for the Park City High School sailing team.

In addition to working with veterans and kids, the Park City Sailing Association is renowned for their adaptive sailing program. There are group and private lessons, and members who pass the skipper’s test have access to the club’s fleet of J/22 boats. In the summer, the Women & Wind Wednesdays sailing group runs casual evening sails for women.

The club can also host corporate events and team-building trips, accommodating around 20 to 30 people on the water at any given time.

In mid-September, Park City’s sailing season culminates with the fall regatta, a series of races. Two courses are set and sailors come from all over the West to compete. At the fall regatta, you might see 40-plus boats on the water, with live music and picnics on the shore. A banquet wraps up the race weekend.