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How to Begin Snow-Kiting
|"I was able to ride with my snowboard. Man, this sport is a pure drug...I've been windsurfing for 16 years and now, I only think about Kiting!"
- Pierre Couture / Canada
How to Begin Snowkiting
The video on the left is not in English, but you can enjoy the experience :)
There is no other sporting activity closer to kiteboarding than snow kiting. Learning to snowkite with a snowboard or downhill snow skis is much easier than learning to kiteboard. Plus, it requires a smaller kite size so the gear is less expensive. And, many people already have a snowboard or skis.
The formula is simple...
Snowboard + Snow Kite + Big Open Area = Endless Adrenaline!
Snowkiting opens up a whole new world for those who ski and snowboard. This is especially true for those who live where the terrain is flat.
Snowkiting is much easier to learn than kiteboarding. No water, No waves, no deep water starts, and no crowded beaches.
All you need is a frozen lake, snow covered field, and some good clean wind. You can simply just add a kite and use the skis or snowboard you already own.
What makes snow kiting easier to learn?
With snow-kiting you are learning on a solid surface rather than water. There is no treading water, no deep water starts, no sinking back down in the water, and no waves. This leads to a much more controlled environment and allows you to focus on your kite and actually riding.
Here are 9 Simple Steps To Getting Started
- Learn Some Kite Flying Skills
- Watch a Couple of Good Instructional DVDs
- Practice Practice Practice
- Find a Couple of Different Areas You Can Start Snowkiting
- Take Lessons
- Buy Your First Kite
- Don't Start in too High of Winds
- Always Exercise Safety First
- Wear Protective Gear
1. Learn Some Kite Flying Skills
Start with a trainer kite to learn kite flying skills. Like any power kiting sport, you always begin with a trainer kite and work up. You can do this anytime whether it is winter, spring, summer, or fall. But, why not get started before the season begins so you are ready to start flying when the snow begins to fly.
Before flying a larger kite you should always take lessons. Kiting is an extreme sport and without proper training, the risk of injury or even death are greatly increased.
2. Watch a Couple of Good Instructional DVDs
We have two DVDs that are excellent of preparing you for snowkiting. One is, "The Way To Fly" and the other is, "How To Snowkite". If you watch these two instructional DVDs you will be well prepared to take a trainer kite or midsize kite and practice each item mentioned below:
Many people involved in snow sports already have the board-skills (or skiing skills), but need to learn the kiting skills:
- How to fly the kite - launching, landing, steering, power…
- Wind awareness - clean wind, wind speed, turbulence…
- Evaluating your environment - Its impact on the wind, obstacles, potential problems…
- Wind orientation - riding angles, going up-wind, returning to where you started…
- Weather forecast and reading the sky
- Kite tuning and adjustments
- Flying while hooked into a harness
3. Practice, Practice, Practice…
Flying your kite needs to come natural before ever stepping foot on a board. Flying a kite is like how important dribbling a basketball is to the sport of basketball. It needs to become second nature.
Building natural flying skills and muscle memory will make learning snowkiting much easier and most importantly much safer.
4. Learn How To Evaluate Your Environment
Learning how to evaluate your environment is extremely important for your safety, and for positioning yourself for the best riding sessions. With snowkiting, we often have more flexibility to where we can fly. For example, one lake I like to fly on we are able to drive out onto the ice. This is awesome because it doesn't matter what direction the wind is blowing. Other areas we may have limited access and may need a NW winds for the cleanest wind.
Take the time to choose the right environment, evaluating wind quality, best wind direction for flying, obstacles, hazards, and identifying groups of people that you may need to stay away from. Like ice shanties or ice fisherman.
If possible, take your trainer kite and go fly in some of the areas you will be snowkiting. You will learn about the quality of the wind and what wind directions are best. You will also become more aware of the area and what obstacles and hazards you need to be aware of.
With inland lakes, one big question will be the wind quality. The bigger and more wide open the area, the better. In relation to your access point,is the wind quality better when the wind is from the north, south, east, or west? How thick does your ice get? Are there any cautions that you need to be aware of? Your ice fishing community is a great resource for understanding frozen lakes.
Keep a safe distance from ice shanties and those ice fishing. There may be popular areas where ice fisherman congregate. Knowing were these areas are will help you determine where you will access the lake and set up to fly in relation to the direction of the wind.
With fields and open terrain, what obstacles do you need to be aware of? Once again, the big question will be wind quality and optimal wind directions. Are there power lines, fences, post that you need to be aware of and stay a safe distance from? How about objects, ditches, rocks, or equipment that may be a hazard but hidden because of the snow?
5. Take Lessons
Taking lessons will help keep you and others around you safe. Lessons will also help you learn much faster than learning on your own. Kiting is a hands-on learning experience. How-to videos can play a role, but should never be a substitute for taking lessons before flying a full size kite.
6. Buying Your First Set Of Snowkiting Gear and Kite
Don't start with too large of a kite. Depending on your weight, wind conditions, and experience, a 4m to 8m kite may be all you need to get out and begin to experience the sport on your snowboard or skis on a hard packed snow.
To learn more about the different types of kites and sizes read the two dedicated articles to these important topics.
7. Don't Try To Start In High Wind Conditions
Know your limits. Higher wind conditions are a game changer and will really increase the risk of endangering yourself very quickly. Just like scuba diving, you learn everything in shallow waters and build up to deeper dives as your experience and skill level increase. Kiting is no different when it comes to flying in higher winds. Depending on the size of your kite and weight, your first flights are best with wind speeds between 8 mph to 12 mph. Then 12mph to 18mph.
You should never attempt to kite in high winds until your are a fully experienced kiter. This will normally take a full season of steady kiting sessions.
8. Always Exercise Safety First
It is important for you to fully understand and practice all your safety mechanisms. It's easy to take these for granted. But, remember if something goes wrong, you may only have seconds to respond. Natural responses built into your muscle memory can save damaging your kite and keep you and others around you safe. Every time you kite you should go through a check list.
Practice letting go of the bar. Most of us go into a monkey grip and tense up. BAD, BAD, BAD. Just let go. This will depower your kite and in most cases will keep the situation from escalating.
Learn to be nice to your kite. If your kite is diving towards the ground. Let go!!! This will take much of the power out and slow the kite down some. Hitting a wall with the gas throttle all the way down will do more damage to your car then if you take your foot off the gas and hit the wall at a lower speed.
Practice releasing your chicken loop and resetting it. Do this before you fly, while you fly, and occasionally when the kite is fully powered zipping through the sky. Always test your chicken loops release and make sure it is clean by rinsing it off in the water.
Practice releasing your harness line safety release. Note, do not release this when flying your kite unless there is an emergency. This totally detaches the kite from you and could put other people at risk or damage your kite. But, it is important to know how it works and how to reassemble it.
Practice pulling out your hook blade. Many people do not even know one comes with their harness and that it is tucked in a little concealed sleeve with a Velcro lining that keeps it from slipping out. Normally there is a little nylon loop or ring sticking out which may be located in the front or one of the sides of your harness.
9. Wear Protective Gear
When snowkiting, always were a helmet and lightly tented goggles. Depending on the surface you are learning on, you may want to consider some elbow, knee, or hip pads. It is always nice to have a little padding if you crash.