LAKE MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) — Getting through a Minnesota winter means finding plenty of things to do outdoors.
You can ski, you can skate, go snowmobiling — but there’s another sport that’s really taking off.
In this weeks’ Finding Minnesota, we head to the frozen lakes where all you need is a good breeze and a kite.
A February morning on Lake Minnetonka is calm and clear.
But it’s not long before you spot a streak of orange in the sky, and hear the rush of skis on snow.
“That first winter I saw somebody out on a kite and they were zipping around on White Bear Lake, and pretty much instantly I was bit,” said Chad Dobson, a snowkiter who operates Dynamik Kiteboarding.
Dobson had spent years skiing the slopes of Montana. But when he moved back to Minnesota in 2000, it was another sport that caught his eye.
“There’s no lift lines. I go out, if I’m out for four or five hours, I’m riding for four or five hours. I don’t have to sit on a chair lift. I don’t have to wait in line,” Dobson said.
There are no motors of any kind in snowkiting. It’s just you and the wind.
It’s a big reason why the number of people snowkiting in Minnesota has soared in recent years.
Dobson says the sport is technique-driven. If you can learn to fly a kite, you can learn to snowkite.
“You don’t have to be an uber athlete to do this,” Dobson said. “You just have to want to get out in the winter and go enjoy it.”
While zipping across a frozen lake is a thrill, getting off the lake and into the air is another kind of rush altogether.
“If I can get 15 to 30 feet in the air 40, 50 times a day or more, I come home with a giant smile on my face,” Dobson said.
But Dobson’s first lesson isn’t about getting vertical, it’s designed to get people riding right away.
Like the kite itself there are ups and down when you’re learning, but it isn’t long before you have a handle on how to push and pull on the bar to get the kite to where you need it to be.
While athletic prowess doesn’t matter, neither does age. Dobson’s students have ranged from 10 years old to 76.
“Seventy-one is a great time to start,” said Joe Manikowski.
Manikowski is a long-time snowboarder who became hooked on snowkiting.
“I think in the future, it’s going to be a dynamite thing,” he said. “More so than it is now even.”
You can see snowkiters on White Bear Lake, Waconia, and even Lake Calhoun.
“I know guys that work downtown,” Dobson said. “They’ll run out to the lake over their lunch break and get in a quick session that way.”
And as long as Mother Nature supplies the wind, snowkiters will be looking to reach new heights.
“It grabs a hold of you, and it’s a sport that you can do for a long, long time,” Dobson said.
It’s estimated Minnesota has more snow kite surfers than any other state in the nation.