Opposite Highway 82 from the bustle of Willits Town Center and unbeknownst to most Roaring Fork Valley commuters, a serene lake and 9 acres of wetlands hide behind a wall of spruce trees, offering local water skiers a world-class facility at 6,500 feet.
Around 30 members pay close to $5,000 to rent the private Kodiak Ski Lake (kodiakskilake.com) with a slalom course and one of its two competition ski boats (including a 2017 Malibu) for two hours per week from early May through late September. The long, narrow shape (2,220 by 225 feet long) and two islands on either end help to eliminate backwash and prevent choppy water. Including Kodiak members’ guests, around 5,000 people ski at the lake per year, according to founder Ace Lane.
Course pro Mike Kusiak coaches and competes all over the world and says Kodiak stands alone. “It’s built perfect, has a beautiful view of the mountains, and the amenities—like the hot tub on the dock and sand beach or the locker room and grill—make it better than most lakes in the world,” he says.
When Lane built the lake 26 years ago, only serious slalom skiers and barefooters joined as members. Now, clientele consists mostly of recreational water skiers, wake surfers and families with kids who like to tube. For the last 15 years, the lake’s memberships have been sold out, with a waitlist to join.
The owner of a landscape architecture design build company, Lane bought the 200-acre former potato farm-turned-cattle ranch in 1990, planted a tree farm a few years later and set out to fulfill his dream of developing a water-ski lake. Now, the property includes mountain bike trails, a motorcross track, and, in winter, the frozen lake hosts snow karting and rally driving.
Former competitive water skier Nicole Birkhold joined Kodiak in 2014 when she moved to Aspen. “Kodiak is one of the most beautiful places in the valley,” says Birkhold. “I grew up on a lake, so to be able to water ski on perfect conditions while living in the Rocky Mountains is truly special. And it’s much warmer than Ruedi!”
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