Twin Cities PBS Logo

Outside Chance: Snowkiting, Anyone?

Our adventure-seeking host takes a chance on a sport suited to thrill-seekers. On Skis. On a frozen lake. And with a kite for good measure.

By Luke Heikkila and Ryan Klabunde

Article by Kelsey Derby

If someone were to casually drop the word "snowkiting" into a random conversation, you might imagine a pastoral scene - one in which a kiddo in a purple snow suit deftly flies a kite in the winter postcard scene dreams are made of. But the ever-so-slightly more daring reality is that snowkiting is an activity that involves the power of wind and the slick surface of skis. And speed. Often, snowkiters travel very, very fast.

We know you have questions - and we happen to have a few answers. But the best way to armchair experience the thrills of snowkiting is to watch the video above, as Outside Chance host Chance York tries his hand at the sport for the first time on White Bear Lake, guided by expert Chad Dobson.

From where in the world does snowkiting originate? 

The sport gained popularity in the early '80s after basically being invented in Germany and Switzerland as a form of parachute-skiing. By the 2000's, freestyle kite-skiing became popularized across the world. The eco-friendly and relatively easy way to travel large distances on snow and ice led to athletes crossing the snow plains of Greenland in record time, a fact that Chance mentions in the episode. 

During the Antarctic summer of January 2007, Team N2i became the first group of people to reach the Antarctic pole, which is otherwise inaccessible, without powered aid by using snowkiting as their primary means of propulsion.  

How did snowkiting become "a thing"? 

Snowkiting requires very similar skills to windsurfing. However, the ice and snow provide a solid place to stand, and you need a lot less wind to really get going. 

Across the U.S. and abroad, you'll see independent snowkiters giving it a go during the wintertime. It's a great way to get outside, stay active, and take advantage of Minnesota's 10,000+ frozen lakes. 

How dangerous is it, really? 

Well, it certainly requires skill! It's harder to maintain balance with a kite on skis than it is on the slopes because your hands and arms are used to control the kite instead of for balance. However, the balance issue can be somewhat offset by the up-and-forward force generated by the kite. 

There's also the issue of hitting unexpected terrain or getting up to an uncomfortable speed. Definitely dive in at your own risk! 

Where can I find the equipment I need to give it a try? 

There are lots of places around the Twin Cities where you can take lessons, as well as get the gear you need. For lessons, check out Chad's company, Dynamik KiteBoarding, or there's also Lakawa, or Virgin Experience. You can find gear at Kitty Hawk Kites, Kitemare and Kiteline

Where in Minnesota can I give snowkiting a whirl? 

You can follow in Chance's footsteps and check out White Bear Lake, or you can find snowkiting opportunities all over Minnesota. Some popular spots include Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, Lake Waconia, Lake Minnetonka and more.

Stay tuned for more episodes from Outside Chance. Coming up next: Taking a dip in icy Lake Superior.

Production Team: Adam Geiger, Ezra Gold, Terry Gray, Steve Fines, Luke Heikkila, Ryan Klabunde, Jon Van Amber, Chance York

TPT Logo
©2024 Twin Cities Public Television