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Snowkiting 102: What You to Know Before Heading to the Snow
You’ve been riding every chance all summer and your kiteboarding skills have given you the confidence to feel comfortable in most conditions, but now winter is upon us and the water is cold and the mountains are covered with snow. You probably already have most of the gear needed for snowkiting, so why not give it a try? Snowkiting is not much different than kiteboarding on the water, but a new set of rules needs to be adapted for a different environment. Much of the standard kiteboarding gear can be used and the same skills and techniques directly apply. In addition to cold weather clothing, there is a variety of other gear that a snowkiter can employ, as this winter playground provides a sold surface to kiteboard on with different challenges and dangers. WHAT SHOULD I WEAR? Clothing and proper layering are key ingredients to a successful snowkite session. Far too often new riders overdress and quickly overheat. Snowkiting is a high energy sport, so your body maintains a much higher temperature than that of typical downhill boarding. Snowkiters need to dress for a highly aerobic activity while also being prepared for cold weather before and after the session. A standard outfit while kiting is a single base layer and a shell to keep the wind and snow out. Colder days may require a thicker base layer or an additional mid-layer that can be removed. To stay warm between rides, the most popular item in a snowkiter’s pack is a down parka. Finding an outer shell with good ventilation allows you to regulate your temperature while riding. If you are wearing your harness over your jacket, you’ll want to be sure that zippers and pockets are above the harness, otherwise you will feel every nub against your bones. Some riders choose to wear climbing style harnesses that don’t ride up like a waist harness. An option for riders that love their waist harness is to pick up a snowkite-specific jacket that allows the harness to be worn underneath the shell, keeping snow out and allowing you to wear it like you would on the water, next to your body. WHAT GEAR DO I NEED? The topic of gear can become convoluted with opinions, but there are a few basics that belong in every snowkiter’s pack. First is the pack itself. If the wind dies or you experience equipment failure, you need to be prepared for a jaunt back to the car. Having a pack that allows you to carry your kite and other essentials will turn a struggle into a fun walk in the woods. Some of the optional gear that may help in this situation would be snowshoes or skins (for skis). Often times the packs that come with a kite will suffice. A pack will allow you to bring all the comforts along for the adventure, including food, drinks, a camera, and extra clothing. One of the greatest benefits of snowkiting is being able to climb a hill and stop on top to enjoy the view, and a good pack will provide the confidence to go as far as possible. A few other primary pieces of gear are a helmet, goggles, and gloves. The helmet is not always necessary on powder days, but hard packed snow, rocks, and a million other obstacles that don’t 7 0 t he ki t e b oa r d e r .c o m
By Brian Schenck/flyozoneusa.com
normally appear on the water make it a safe choice. Beyond that, a helmet is the warmest piece of clothing and keeps out wind better than any beanie. Goggles are the next prime ingredient, turning foul weather days into a visual paradise, not to mention keeping the wind and cold off your face. Gloves are a must, and carrying a second pair is paramount. You are always using your hands, and it is highly likely that your first pair will get wet during the day. Many riders carry a light and a heavy pair of gloves, using the thinner pair while setting up kites and connecting lines and wearing the warmer gloves while riding. There are other items to consider that are not as necessary, but can make your experience much more enjoyable. A snow shovel is an indispensable tool for everything from throwing snow on your kite to hold it down to being used as an anchor or digging an emergency shelter. On frozen lakes it’s wise to carry an ice screw, which can be used as an anchor to secure your kite. I like to carry a sling of webbing and a carabineer which can be used as an anchor almost anywhere. A GPS is also high on the list of must-haves, as it can lead you back to civilization during a white out snow storm. SHOULD I RIDE A SNOWBOARD OR SKIS? Before you make any choice on what to ride ask yourself these questions: What equipment am I most comfortable on? What gear do I already have in the garage? If your answer to those questions is skis, then you should consider adapting your kiteboarding skills to skis. With skis, you will be able to move around on the snow while your snowboarding buddies are sitting on their butts. If you don’t have any experience on skis, focus your energy on snowboarding. Aside from a different feeling of edge pressure, all of the waterborne kite techniques will apply. Board size should be based on rider weight and conditions. Deeper snow and heavier riders will want a longer board. There are a few snowkite-specific snowboards that allow for easier tracking and upwind riding. For skis, old straight skis seem to work best on frozen lakes and icy conditions while fat mountain skis are the preference in deep powder. Everything will work, so start from what you have and develop your own personal preference as you gain experience.