This Weekend: What Is Snowkiting?

At Lake Mille Lacs, a new sport catches wind. Here’s how you can get started.

Snowkiters on Lake Mille Lacs, Photo Courtesy of Mille Lacs Kite Crossing/Facebook

Your feet are strapped to a snowboard. Your torso is harnessed to a giant, parachute-like kite. Before you, a frozen lake stretches to the horizon. Above, winds begin to churn.

This is snowkiting, a relatively new sport that takes snowboarding and skiing to the next level—because you don’t need a hill to shred: just wind.

This weekend, the sport’s biggest event sets kites flying over Lake Mille Lacs, one of Minnesota’s biggest lakes. Along its northwestern shore, the small town of Garrison hosts a race as well as opportunities for beginners to test their snowkiting legs.

Taking off in Minnesota in recent years, snowkiting combines snowboarding and wakeboarding. The big difference: The water you typically glide over while wakeboarding becomes solid ice. Fastened to a large kite, snowkiters fly atop frozen bodies of water, tugged along by winter gusts.

Athletes from all over flock to Minnesota’s lakes for the sport. Hundreds of spectators and many athletes will gather this Friday for Garrison’s annual 28-mile snowkite race. As a tradition of 14 years, Garrison claims its race is the longest running of its kind. Non-athletes and novices come for the ice bar, the bonfire, kickball games, and snowkite lessons.

Racing is typical in snowkiting, but recreational snowkiting is just as popular, especially in Minnesota. Here’s some information about the race and how you can get started:

What: Mille Lacs Kite Crossing
Where: Garrison, on the shore of Lake Mille Lacs
When: 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Friday through Sunday, with the 28-mile race on Saturday
How to Watch: Spectators can view the race in Garrison from the shore on Highway 169 or by driving/walking out onto the ice.

Where to Buy Gear: Any type of snowboard or skis will do, plus an official-brand snow kite, available at Kitty Hawk Kites, Kitemare, and Kiteline.

What Skills You Need: If you can downhill ski or snowboard, and if you are familiar with wakeboarding, then it won’t take much for you to slip into snowkiting.

Where to Take Lessons: Lessons are available in Garrison this weekend. Dynamic Kiteboarding also teaches lessons on various lakes around the Twin Cities, Lakawa on White Bear Lake, and Cloud 9 Living in Minneapolis.