Water Skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir


Horsetooth Reservoir, located just west of Fort Collins, Colorado, is a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts, attracting over half a million visitors each year. The reservoir offers a diverse range of activities, including water skiing, which has become a favorite pastime for locals and tourists alike.


  • Horsetooth Reservoir is a premier destination for water skiing in northern Colorado
  • The best times for water skiing are typically from May through September
  • Essential equipment includes water skis, a life jacket, and a tow rope, and safety should always be a top priority

The Allure of Horsetooth Reservoir for Water Enthusiasts

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Horsetooth Reservoir boasts stunning natural beauty and crystal-clear waters. The reservoir was constructed between 1946 and 1949 as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which diverts water from the west slope to the east slope for various uses, including recreation.

Horsetooth Reservoir has become a significant part of the Fort Collins community, serving as a beloved spot for outdoor activities and relaxation. Its proximity to the city (just a 10-minute drive from Old Town Fort Collins) and its expansive public lands (1,900 acres) make it an easily accessible and versatile destination.

Preparing for a Water Skiing Adventure

To ensure a safe and enjoyable water skiing experience at Horsetooth Reservoir, it’s essential to have the proper equipment. This includes:

  • Water skis (either combo skis or a slalom ski, depending on your skill level)
  • A life jacket (required for each person on a boat and must be worn by children at all times)
  • A tow rope (specifically designed for water skiing)

Rentals are available at local sports shops or marinas near the reservoir. For those new to the sport, water skiing lessons and coaching are offered by experienced instructors at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Navigating the Waters: Rules and Regulations

To maintain a safe and enjoyable environment for all visitors, Horsetooth Reservoir has specific boating and water skiing regulations in place. These include:

  • All watercraft must be registered with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Boaters must follow the counterclockwise direction of travel on the reservoir
  • Water skiing is allowed only during designated hours (typically from sunrise to sunset)
  • Skiers must wear a life jacket and have an observer in the boat at all times

Visitors must also obtain the necessary permits and pay associated fees to access the reservoir and engage in water skiing activities.

Best Spots for Water Skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir offers several popular areas for water skiing, each with its own unique features and challenges. Some of the best spots include:

  • The main channel: This area provides long, straight runs perfect for beginners and those looking to practice their technique.
  • Satanka Cove: Located on the south end of the reservoir, this cove offers calmer waters and is ideal for slalom skiing.
  • Inlet Bay: Situated on the north end, Inlet Bay features smooth water conditions in the morning, making it a favorite among experienced skiers.

These spots can be accessed via public docks, boat ramps, and marinas located around the reservoir.

Maximizing Your Water Skiing Experience

To make the most of your water skiing adventure at Horsetooth Reservoir, consider the following tips:

  • For beginners, start with combo skis and focus on maintaining a balanced, crouched position.
  • As you progress, challenge yourself with a slalom ski and practice crossing the wake for more advanced maneuvers.
  • To avoid crowds and find the smoothest water conditions, aim to ski early in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Always communicate with your boat driver and observer to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Supporting Services and Amenities

Horsetooth Reservoir offers a range of amenities to support your water skiing adventure, including:

  • Nearby accommodations for extended stays, such as campgrounds and vacation rentals
  • Dining options and picnic areas around the reservoir
  • Ample parking, restroom facilities, and emergency services

These amenities make it easy to plan a day trip or a longer getaway centered around water skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Community and Events

The water skiing community at Horsetooth Reservoir is vibrant and welcoming, with local clubs and organizations that host events and competitions throughout the summer. These events provide an excellent opportunity to connect with fellow water skiing enthusiasts, learn new techniques, and showcase your skills.


What are the best months for water skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir?

The best months for water skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir are typically May through September, when the weather is warm and the water conditions are most favorable.

Are there any water skiing competitions held at Horsetooth Reservoir?

Yes, local water skiing clubs and organizations host various competitions and events throughout the summer months at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Can beginners find water skiing lessons at Horsetooth Reservoir?

Yes, experienced instructors offer water skiing lessons for beginners at Horsetooth Reservoir, providing a safe and supportive environment to learn the basics of the sport.

What are the fees associated with water skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir?

Fees for water skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir include the cost of a park entrance permit, boat launch fees, and any necessary equipment rentals or lessons. Specific fees can be found on the Larimer County website.

How can I ensure I’m respecting the natural environment while water skiing?

To respect the natural environment while water skiing at Horsetooth Reservoir, follow all posted guidelines, properly dispose of waste, avoid disturbing wildlife, and practice responsible boating and skiing techniques to minimize your impact on the ecosystem. This holds true for any Colorado lake or reservoir, including Grand Lake, Carter Lake, Long Lake, Lake Granby, Canyon Lake, Lake Mary, Utah Lake, Lake Powell, Green Lake, Boyd Lake, Pelican Lake, Birch Lake, and Whitefish Lake.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.