Remembering the 11th Annual Mille Lacs Kite Crossing

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The energy had been building throughout the winter. The huge success was last years 10th Annual was still on everyone’s minds. The recent addition of the Excelsior Brewing Snowkite Open in Minneapolis three weeks earlier got everyone warmed up and ready to take on the big lake once again. Forecasts were looking good, temps were near ideal, fresh snow came the week earlier, and those lovely isobars were lining up across the northern part of the state.


End of Session Photo


 those lovely isobars were lining up across the northern part of the state.

Being involved in snowkite event planning over the last 14 years, has lead me to one simple rule of thumb, you plan for the best conditions and be ready to roll with whatever mother nature gives you. Out of the 18 events I have been involved in, never has everything come together quite as well as it did this weekend for the Kite Crossing. Three days of sun with temps just below freezing, 3 days of wind in the high teens to low 20s, a well supported and organized event and hundreds of riders happy to be out enjoying what we all love.

 hundreds of riders happy to be out enjoying what we all love


Set-up, Freeride and Welcome Party

Todd Hanson and a small crew groomed a large area the size of a few football fields for the terrain park. Large kickers were created and sculpted. Some of our Canadian crew had rolled in bringing their usual nutty humor and big smiles. Riders were out hitting the natural kickers and small ice heaves that dotted that large ice sheet. As the sun set shadows got longer, everything took on that warm glow, and that familiar gradient from the blue overhead to the fusia horizon meant it was time to pack up.

The Welcome Party on Friday night was lively. The Wailing Loons were rocking the place as riders picked up there packets, caught up, shared their stories from the season and ran up their bar tabs. Everyone was pretty stoked for the weekend.


Race, Free Ride, Expression Session, Tandem Races

Winds were looking good and there was an early decision that this was race day. Cars streamed out to the event site just over a mile out from shore. The Redbull spider tent was the epicenter for the venue and the feather flags from the sponsors were fluttering like made and bent downwind. The sound of pumps filled the air. Soon the venue transformed from a white landscape to color everywhere, on the ground, overhead, and stretching out into the horizon.


Soon the venue transformed from a white landscape to color everywhere, on the ground, overhead, and stretching out into the horizon.



Jeff Olsen Photo

The Racers meeting had quite an energy. Riders were stoked to get out on the course and ride the wind that was so present in everything not solid. After a few rules everyone was off to the starting line. Chip timing would not require rushing to the start line, but there was a big crew that wanted to get out in front.

After the start horns, the pack spread out pretty quickly across that big open expanse. Bald eagles soared overhead curious no doubt. Racers sliced out across the nearly flat lake. Those that had invested in the new race foils and long race skis clearly had an advantage and ripped by recreational riders. The sky was pure blue, without a cloud. Hoots and hollars could be heard as riders passed one another. After looping around the outside mark the trek back seemed daunting for most. The angle of attack had kites lining up with the sun and leaving kiters riding in the shadow of their own kite. If you weren’t going all out for a podium position, it was an amazing experience to take in. The fastest riders would do the 14 mile trek in just under 30 minutes, which clocks them averaging nearly 30miles an hour, which is quite impressive considering the uneven surface out there.


Jeff Olsen Photo


After the race many kept riding and many took a long break. The social hour in the venue was hopping with great tunes, grills and brews. The show put on, just a few feet away, in the terrain park was spectacular. Big lofty floaters.

About midafternoon Sociable Ciderworks hosted a LaManns style race. Rig, ride, derig, chug. It was a short course and fairly exciting to watch, as kites had minimal air in them, and kites were repacked “rather loosely”.

A bit later in the afternoon, we had the first every tandem racing. One kiter and another rider extended 20 ft back, on board, skis or sled. This got pretty serious. Riders were getting lofted as they looped around the outer turn at mach 6. A lot of strategy was discussed as riders made repetitive attempts to obtain the top spot.

Slowly that familiar hissing became more present as kites were taken down for the day. Things were packed up and cars streamed off the ice. Those that kept riding into the sunset were treated to a warm glow and steady winds.

Banquet/ Awards

The Banquet is always a highlight of the weekend. The Y Club in Garrison puts out quite a feast to feed the hungry racers and riders. The room is quite loud as riders share stories of their ride across the lake, their sessions back home, or crazy memories from past year Crossings.

Sponsors, Slingshot, Cabrinha, Excellsior Brewing and Sociable Ciderworks had provided some great swag for the riders.

Awards were given out to the podium positions that included two junior riders 11 and 13 years old.


Freeride and Demos

The day after the race and the banquet tend to be lazy days. We were fortunate enough to get another great day of riding in. The winds were up in the upper teens again. Lakawa Kiteboarding, Dynamik kiteboarding and HQ kites were giving gear demos. Everyone enjoyed working out the kinks from the day before and hanging out in the sun and warm temps.

 …enjoyed working out the kinks from the day before


End of Session Photo

The Mille Lacs Kite Crossing is the longest running snowkite event in the country. Every year has been a different event as mother nature has been consistently inconsistent. More than one person expressed that this was the “Absolute Best Crossing ever”. We were fortunate enough to have great weather and conditions, a community that decided to show up and be a part of this, friends from around the country and Canada that joined us, a great pool of volunteers, and generous sponsors that believed in what we were doing.

 Absolute Best Crossing ever!


11th Annual Mille Lacs Kite Crossing
March 6-8th, 2015
Garrison Minnesota, USA
Race Length 14miles
134 Registrations
104 Racers
Weather: Sunny, 25-34 degrees Winds 16-25 mph WNW all three days!



Mens Ski

Chris Krug

Jon Stroh

Mike Kratochwill


Mens Snowboard

Nathan Borer

Justin Specht

Todd Hanson


Womens Snowboard

Vicky Hanson

Katie Egle

Megan Beisner


Womens Ski

Molly Savard

Lizzy Wilkins

Kate Perkins



Nierenhausen, Peter

Nierenhausen, Nick


CKA Awards

Skiers Racers   School
1st Jack Hicks Michigan Tech University
2nd Jared Munch University of Minnesota Duluth
1st Adam Burggraff University of Minnesta Duluth
2nd Bob Garzon Minnesota State University Moorhead
Womens Skiers  
1st Amanda Burggraff Winona State University





Messenger/Aikin Age

Dynamik Kiteboarding

Lakawa Kiteboarding

Garrison Commercial Club

Red Bull


HQ Kites

Slingshot Kiteboarding

The Y Club


Sociable Cider Werks

Deerwood Bank

Best Kites

Northstar Surf

In Kind Sponsors

Excelsior Brewing

Grain Studio

Garrions Inn

Kiteboarder Magazine

Gopher State Events

Wai Nani SUP


Wailing Loons

End of Sessions

Harbor In

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About the author


Tighe Belden has been riding the wind for over 30 years. He has been active in the windsport community for over 3 decades, as an instructor, event coordinator, creator of Lakawa and now End of Session, and stokes people on the latest gear as a Tech Ambassador for Slingshot Sports.