As some regions cool and snow starts to fall, enthusiasm builds for snow kite die-hards. Riders look forward to cutting new lines, trying new terrain and gliding. We’ve put together a few tips to make your snow experience more exciting!
Start – If you’ve not tried snow kiting, DO IT! It’s easy, accessible and super fun. If you’re new to kiting, it’s a great way to get up and riding and focus on flying skills without worrying about water starts.
Terrain – Look for a decent snow base of about 6-8 inches of good pack and 6-8 inches of the soft stuff. Wet snow will require larger kites. The more snow you have, the softer your falls will be. Watch out for ice sheets or rocks under the snow. Rolling hills offer an opportunity to feel like you’re surfing or can be used as kickers. You’ll be able to explore areas like never before opening up the true feeling of snow kiting. Frozen lakes are great, but make sure there is plenty of ice (absolutely check by drilling). If you ride on frozen land, be sure to obtain permission and know what obstacles are hidden under the snow (fences, rocks…). Big mountain and backcountry riding requires commitment, a plan and advanced skills.
Clothing – When rigging, you’re sure to be cold, but during your session, you’ll sweat like crazy. Best to layer and use a coat/pants combo that has vent zippers. Go to your local tailor and get a harness opening with a zipper inserted into your jacket. It’s cheap and allows you to remove your coat if needed without having to take off your harness. Mitts will keep your hands warmer, but gloves will offer a more tactile feel on the bar.
Rigging – Snow has less friction than water. Inflation and line set up is the same, but when you’re ready to launch, an ice screw will be a super handy tool. Simply attach your chickenloop to the screw, walk out your kite to the launch position, then go back to your bar and launch as you would with an assisted launch. With the kite launched, rest it on a wingtip at the edge of the wind window while you put on your bindings. It’s much easier to do than trying to launch the kite while strapped in. You can land your kite in the reverse manner to optimize safety.
Ice build up – Your safety will be coated in ice at some point. Be sure to check regularly and remove any build up that will impact the effectiveness of your emergency release systems.
Wind – You can get out in far less wind than you can with the water. You’ll find that you can reduce your kite size (depending on snow conditions). You’ll likely be on your smaller kites more often. Winter inland winds are often gusty, especially if you’re in a farm field. Stay in open spaces to reduce the gusts. Carefully check the forecast and radar before going out. There is not a lot of cushion in the snow, so you don’t want to be in a surprise overpowered situation.
Gear – You can enjoy snow kiting with either a snowboard or skis. While there are snow kite specific boards, regular equipment works very well. If you ride a snowboard however, you’ll find that step in bindings will be much more efficient. Your kite and harness that you use for water can be used used as well for the snow. Be aware that cold conditions are more stressful on valves. Be slow and mindful to prevent valve material fatigue. No need for snow specific kites – use what you have. A snow specific helmet is a MUST. Goggles will help with glare. Snow pants that have either a bib or suspenders will prevent snow going down your pants (trust us) as the harness tends to push the pants down a little. Knee and elbow pads will be helpful, especially in conditions that don’t have a lot of snow cover.
A plan – If you’re riding in a location where you can’t be seen from homes or roadways, be sure to let people know where you are and when you’ll be back. Keep a cell phone in a breast pocket, but keep it warm (the cold is hard on batteries). In the event of a worst case scenario, how will you help yourself? It’s no good if you’re injured in a cold environment when no one knows you need assistance. Kiting with friends is always the best solution and is way more fun!
Take a trip – A road trip or destination adventure can be a great way to get you to an array of terrain options. You’ll find that snow kiting unlocks terrain options that water simply cannot.