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Finding Minnesota: Snowkiting On Frozen Lakes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- 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. If I'm out for 4 or 5 hours, I'm riding for 4 or 5 hours. I don't have to sit on a chair lift. I don't have to be waiting in a 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 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 feet in the air, 40 or 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 over to the lake at 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.

"I love getting these guys up and riding and eventually I get to go riding with them, and it's so much fun," Dobson said. "It grabs a hold of you, and it's a sport you can do for a long, long time."

Dobson also teaches kitesurfing on the open lakes in the summer.


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