Carcross: Hiking, biking and … Kiteboarding

Carcross has always been known for hiking. Lately, with Montana Mountain right next door, it has become a favoured destination for biking, too.

Now, word is filtering out to the world that Lake Bennett is offering up some world-class opportunities for kiting.

You’ve seen it before: whenever a soft-drink company wants a commercial to show young, fit adventurers getting the most out of life, they show them surfing on open water, being propelled by a kite. “It feels like flying,” says kiting enthusiast Thane Phillips, of Whitehorse. “Just the complete feeling of freedom.”

Phillips and his wife own Klondike Kiteboarding, a business that outfits kiteboarders — look for it on Facebook. They have kited in Mexico and the Caribbean, the Meccas of the sport, so he knows the merits of a good spot.

“When the wind is good here, it is the best,” he says of Lake Bennett. “Absolutely, a hidden gem. “Every time you come back from somewhere else, you are reminded about how good it is. “The wind is pretty consistent; generally it is a smooth wind, not gusty like in the White Pass where the wind comes over the mountains. “About 15 to 20 knots. “And it is shallow, which means it does not have big waves.”

Shallow water also means the water is warm and, “If you crash, you just stand up and get your stuff.”

So, it is a great spot for beginners?

“It is ok for beginners, because they can walk out with their equipment and launch far out and work their way back,” Phillips answers. “But it is an onshore wind, which means the wind is coming straight onto the beach. “The problem with that is, if something goes wrong, you are being pulled toward something pretty solid. “It is intimidating because, in kiting, when things go wrong, they go wrong quickly.”

Phillips says there are spots in Brazil with trade winds that blow 24/7 from October to April. Knowing that you are guaranteed a good day on the water is an attractive consideration for a kiteboarder, but these spots can see up to 200 kiteboarders who must watch out for each other.

Lake Bennett, however, is huge, says Phillips. “There is a ridiculous amount of space. And a busy day is only six kiters.”

But, to be perfect, the wind would need to be 24/7. “No wind?” Phillips ponders. “It happens for sure. But the core kiters, here, are getting better at reading the weather signs. “The great thing is that when there is no wind, you can go mountain biking on these fantastic trails. “It is the perfect combination.”

Many kiting experiences begin and end at the Carcross Commons, where Phillips is enjoying his Americano on the sunlit deck.

Tourists from around the world mingle with Yukon families that are taking in the sights before heading down to the wide, sandy beaches and warm, shallow water of Lake Bennett.

The owner and operator of Caribou Crossing Coffee, Heike Graf, joins us and asks if we really want to let out the secret about how great Lake Bennett is. “I am not against people discovering that the Yukon is a beautiful place,” Phillips responds. “Very often, kiters are mountain bikers, so this is the perfect place to be. You go mountain biking in the morning and you see white caps on the lake, so you have lunch, here, and go kiting.”

Graf says kiting will do for Carcross what hiking and biking have already done. “I hear a lot of people, in my shop, say ‘outstanding’ a lot. “Outstanding area, outstanding trails, outstanding conditions.”

And, when more and more kiters come to Carcross, she is ready for them. “Have you ever tried our Fourth Dimension?” she asks. “It is our very special drink for kiters. “It is Earl Grey Tea with a scoop of vanilla gelato and steamed milk with coconut syrup and coconut sprinkles. “This is just the thing for kiters when they come off the waves and they are super excited, but a little chilled.”

So, can Lake Bennett be called, “world-class” by kiters?

The websites akavalanches. com and say, respectively, “it’s our favourite” and “85 percent of my riding in the summer is on Lake Bennett as the weather is most consistent”.

Phillips, meanwhile, has anecdotal evidence: “I have a friend who came up here. He kites in Victoria and around the world and he says, ‘Why would you go anywhere else?’

“That’s the story of the Yukon,” says Phillips. “Why would you go anywhere else in the summer?”

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