By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you like the outdoors, you may be disappointed in the lack of snow this winter.

It’s put some limitations on just how much fun you can have — but all is not lost.

Even with the lack of snowpack on trails, ice conditions on some lakes are perfect for an activity known as “kicksledding.”

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen goes to Eagan to see just how popular it’s become.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of nuthatches, chickadees this morning. We had a couple of pileated woodpeckers,” said naturalist Laura LeFebvre.

More than 2,000 acres make up Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

There’s plenty of wildlife to see and plenty of activities to do. But this winter, mixed among the sounds of Mother Nature are the sounds of boots and sleds speeding across the ice.

Kicksledding is about as Nordic as it gets. It was invented in Sweden around 1870 when someone simply put a chair on wooden runners. Back then, kicksleds, or “sparks” as they’re often called, served a variety of practical purposes in snowy Scandinavia.

“These are really easy to use to go to school in. Maybe to go to the grocery store,” said LeFebvre.

Today, they’re all about winter fun. With a kick, a slide and a glide they’re like Segways or scooters on ice with some added manpower. On Schultz Lake, ice conditions are nearly perfect during a winter when snow conditions are imperfect.

“This is a blast. It’s our first time doing it. We’ve been wanting to try it for a long time,” said Annie Rohlfing.

The park has 10 kicksleds, and on days like this one, they’re getting plenty of use.

“This is nice because you don’t have to have the snow for it — like sledding downhill for the boys. We can just come out on the ice and play,” Rohlfing said.

“If you are out here with a kid or a dog on this kicksled, and you are pushing them around for 30 minutes, you are going to feel it,” said LeFebvre.

And if you’re going for speed, know that some kicksled racers in Finland and Norway can reach speeds of up to 20 mph.

“Speed. It was fun. You can get going pretty fast and it’s a good way to travel across the lake and see parts of the park you don’t really see from land,” said kicksledder Anna Metzger.

There’s a saying for that: The quicker the kicker, the slicker the sled.

“Sliding, running, being on a frozen lake. A lot of times that’s fun for families and kids. They’ve never experienced that before,” said LeFebvre. “Once you get a good kick and slide and glide across there, you can hop on the back of the runner and enjoy the ride.”

John Lauritsen

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