Few sports offer quite the same thrill factor as snowkiting. Snowkiting in Chicago and the surronding area provides long snowy runs, massive air and heart-in-mouth ridges. New on the block, or just looking to tick off yet another sporting experience as you travel the globe, it’s a perfect place for this novel and beguiling winter sport.
Where to go Snowkiting in Chicago
The destinations below offer everything a dedicated snowkiter needs: consistent wind, wide open space and intriguing terrain.
Speed and Smoothness
The world snowkiting speed record is – believe it or not – 73.5mph. Head down to the smooth, obstacle-free Little Black Lake in midwinter and you’ll find plenty of would-be record breakers on foils catching the powerful north and northeast winds. In fact, the wind is pretty good from any direction apart from the west, due to the density of foliage.
While these are perfect conditions for boosting, don’t overdo it as you’ll slide a long way before coming to a halt. Most of the season, the ice is ideally balanced: soft enough to break your fall, yet not so thick as to bog down beginners trying out their first 2-lines.
Looking to save money then book a room with Hostelbookers.com and hire 4WD to get here, but watch out when parking it – on extreme December days the snow can pile up to several feet.
On the east coast of Lake Michigan, Little Black Lake is about 3 and a half hours’ drive from Chicago.
A Pretty Place to Snowkite
With its frost-whitened beachside trees and craggy launch area, Gun Lake deserves full marks for aesthetics. The easterly wind makes re-launching tough, so LEI kiters will be at a disadvantage if they sheet out.
At 4-5ins, Gun Lake doesn’t have the thickest ice in the world – if it cracks and you fall through, make sure you have a decent pair of ice claws available.
Another important safety tip: make sure you keep your lines close to your kite as they aren’t very visible to oncoming riders and snowmobilers. Above all, this region is novice-friendly, as its windspeeds rarely exceed 15mph.
Rest up in one of the Chicago’s many hotels and make plans for your rest days – aside from snowkiting at Gun Lake, the ice fishing is good in the winter and boating up the Grand Rapids a lot of fun in the summer.
To get there, take Exit 61 on the US 131 Highway, heading east for about 8 miles until you reach Briggs Road South. Veer right into State Park Drive and that’s it.
Fun at the Festival
Also located in the Grand Rapids locale, Reed’s Lake is home to the annual Ice Fly event. Exhibition snowkiters, snowboarders taking off into the air and kite-building are just some of the activities to enjoy. Rose’s Restaurant serves free – unbelievably so – hot dogs and hot chocolate.
Nearby, at Grand Haven, MI, is the summer equivalent, the Great Lakes Kite Festival which takes place in May. All-comers can fly their own kites, buy accessories and watch globally-renowned fliers control multicoloured kites 12ft in diameter. Outside of the festival period, Reed’s Lake’s deeper snow attracts experts and is good for high-powered foils.