Wintertime wind surfers under the Mackinac Bridge
Go north this weekend and you’ll find an international competition of world-class wind riders hoping to set speed records in St. Ignace, Michigan, a gateway to the Upper Peninsula. Today through Sunday, the town hosts the World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships, billed as the only event in the world where wings, kites, and sails compete over snow and ice. Don’t let the mild winter dissuade you from packing the long johns: By the time the west winds funnel through St. Ignace and adjacent Mackinaw City, they’ve been blowing unobstructed for over 100 miles, averaging 27 miles an hour over Lake Huron during the winter—in other words, prime conditions for cold-weather speed racers. Visitors to St. Ignace can watch three classes of frigid flyers: Racers in the sled class compete standing on sleds powered by windsurfing rigs; those in the hand-held class stand on any sort of sliding device and are directly attached to their wings at the hand; and kite class competitors harness the wind via tethered wings. Races take place on Chain Lake and the event’s staging area, featuring beer tents and a Finnish sauna, is the Little Bear East Arena (littlebeararena.com). Equipment demos and food tents will be plentiful, and amateur ice athletes can try their hand at “ice bowling” between races.
GO The 32nd annual World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships, February 20 through 26, in St. Ignace, Michigan; wissa2012.com.
Where to stay: The Boardwalk Inn (316 N. State St.; 800-0254-5408, boardwalkinn.com) has gorgeous lakeside views and is within walking distance to shops; winter rates range from $57 to $77 a night. The Colonial House Inn (90 N. State St.; 906-643-6900, colonial-house-inn.com) is a Victorian bed and breakfast with an adjoining hotel in downtown St. Ignace; nightly rates range from $59 to $89.
Where to eat: The Driftwood Restaurant and Sports Bar (590 N. State St.; 906-643-9133, thedriftwoodonline.com) offers Upper Peninsula favorites including smoked whitefish and whitefish barbecued in a parchment bag. Bentley’s B-N-L Cafe (62 N. State St.; 906-643-7910) is a diner with a jukebox and checkered tiles, where you can get hand-formed burgers, from-scratch fries, and whitefish sandwiches made from recently swimming whitefish; cash only.
Photograph: Courtesy of the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce