12th Annual Mille Lacs Crossing

Twelve years,  Wow!  This is officially becoming a tradition…a grand tradition.  Just as the season is winding down, as snow tires get taken off,  as the snow in the cities starts becoming occasional piles…we head north.  We head to that big hunk of ice called Lake Mille Lacs.  Well I guess not all of us head north, some come south, some come east, some come west.  Riders from around the US and Canada come to Lake Mille Lacs to push their limits and compete against the best international riders,  the elements, or themselves.  Doesn’t matter why,  we all come together to race, to play, to hang out in the sun, and to share the stories of our region, sessions past, or memorable past Crossings.

Riders from around the US and Canada come to Lake Mille Lacs to push their limits and compete against the best international riders,  the elements, or themselves.

It seems like every year in the weeks preceding the Crossing the forecasts are always a bit questionable; no wind, no snow, frigid temps, etc.  And the crazy thing is more than often the forecasts are wrong.  This year was no exception.  We had lost most of our snow during the warm spell weeks before the race.  Most lakes were almost glare ice.  There was only a small chance of a bit of snow on Friday.  And… that didn’t phase us…I personally think it’s the belief in the Crossing, in what the weekend could be, and has been, that brings in the snow and gave us another wonderful weekend for this event.


Jenn Barnett Photo

Leaving Minneapolis on Friday morning, there wasn’t snow to be found.  Driving north the snow started coming down hard.  The landscape got whiter and whiter as we made our way North.  Katie texted me as they arrived at the lake…it was white!   Sweet.  Pedal down.

As we drove out onto the big lake on Friday afternoon, it was winter again.  Kites in the sky, vivid against the grey sky, white carpet reaching out to the horizon.  Everything was coming together for another grand Mille Lacs Crossing, or officially Grand Casino Mille Lacs Crossing.

Everything was coming together for another grand Mille Lacs Crossing.

The welcome party on Friday night was full of life.  Wailing Loons put down a good vibe, and there was the typical ponderings on the weather, competitors, and irrelevant matters.  Plenty of BS on tap.

2016KiteCrossingDropBox - 26

Emilie Hitch Photo

Saturday was an insanely beautiful day.  Bright blue skies, bright white ice, mmm perfect!  Within an hour the venue was alive with color, riders and laughter.  There was a wind and flags were moving, though it quickly died off.  Todd Newman, the Race Director, made the call that they’d check again after lunch, otherwise the race would be moved to Sunday.

The windy days are good, but the warm calm days are good as well.  We reconnect, talk gear, and make up silly things to do.  Human Slingshot 2.0 almost worked.  3.0 will definitely rock!  Katie coordinated an official Saucer Slide with Dan Wilder and Kate Perkins making the best runs. Woody and Mike K put together a short course race in the light winds.   Other riders put on cross country skis and explored the flat landscape.  Some just hiked out to explore the ice heaves that reached out across the ice.

2016KiteCrossingDropBox - 691

Emilie Hitch Photo

Many of us knew the wind was coming but so was nightfall, and so we packed up.  Bryce and Brian kept the faith and were rewarded with powered session in the glow of the setting sun, beautiful.

The banquet at the Y club was tasty as usual.  Energy was in the air for Sunday’s race.  The forecast looked really good.

Many awoke on Sunday to the sound of wind…oh yeah this is going to be fun.  Arriving at the lake there was definitely a good flow from the south, the Redbull tent was bending over in the wind.  Most pumped mid sized kites.  A few went out on larger kites and came in with the kites almost directly overhead.  The race committee  had scoped out a line to the SE.  All the way to the far side.  All the riders were stoked to do a real crossing.  It had been 12 years since we made tracks from one side to the other and back.  We were ready to do it again.

It had been 12 years since we made tracks from one side to the other and back.

2016KiteCrossingDropBox - 132Emilie Hitch photo

We all rigged and made our way up to the start line.  There was a bit of a pause as they finalized the course, then we were off…one by one.  Mike K was one of the first out of the gate and was gone from sight in minutes.  The line out was perfect.  The surface was smooth, the wind steady as a fan and sun was bright.  There were 3-4 major pressure ridges we had to cross.  The race team had identified the best openings and had crew on each to assist if needed.  The line out did seem to go on and on.  Whip around the outer mark and now for the ride back.  New leg, new tack.  Slightly off the wind, it was a powered run for sure.  After about an hour the snow started to quickly turn to puddles.   Didn’t phase any of the riders.

IMG_1694Jenn Barnett photo

With the desire of some to get on the road and start the long trip home, we derigged and headed to the Y club for the Award Ceremony.  See below for winners.

Another great weekend on Lake Mille Lacs came to a close.  Every year the Crossing delivers, never the same experience but always a blast.

Big thanks go out to those who came in from Canada and around the US.  Super huge thanks go out to Katie and Todd Newman for all their dedication and hard work to make this happen.  Gratitude for all the volunteers.

Thanks to Emilie Hitch for her shots;  See more: https://www.facebook.com/EmilieHitchPhotography/

Thanks to Jenn Barnett for her shots: http://jennbarnett.photoshelter.com

Thanks to Todd Hanson for the award photos:

CourageousawardCourageous Award:  Judith Graille


JuniorsJuniors:  #1 Nierenhausen Peter, #2 Nierenhausen Nicholas


mastersboardMasters Board: #1 Todd Hanson,  #2 Roland Rioux


mastersskiMasters Ski:  #1 Brian Beveridge, # 2 Rob Evans, #3 Scott Lystrup


mensboardMen’s Snowboard.  #1 Justin Specht, #2 Nick Ruchti  #3 Jack Nierenhausen 


womensskiWomen’s Ski:  #1 Christine Zobitz, #2 Kate Perkins Johnson, #3 Kelly Wilder (not pictured)


womenssnowboardWomen’s Snowboard:  #1 Vicky Hanson, #2 Lacee Gordon


mensskiMen’s Ski:  #1  Mike Kratochwill, #2 Chris Mason, #3 Marty Roy

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.

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