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Waist deep in the promised land

by Steve Bodner 16 Feb 00:36 PST
Waist deep in the promised land © Steve Bodner

Imagine your favorite pillow. White and fluffy and as soft as a baby lamb's coat. Rolling contours envelope the surface creating a personal palace for your head to sink into.

Now imagine the same landscape but instead of a pillow, it's a wide open winter wonderland of snow covered meadows, subtle valleys and endless terrain. You are just a spec on it's surface.

Instead of your head sinking in, you're able to effortless glide across the terrain, riding in and out of valleys, across ridges and floating over streams below.

This is snow kiting.
No waiting in lift lines.
No over priced lift tickets.

Just you, the kite and a pair of skis or snowboard.

Happiness can be found at the end of a kite

This years mid winter adventure took me to the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming, east of Yellowstone National Park for the 2019 Snowkite Masters. It was a gathering of like minded kiters from the Rocky Mountains and East and West coasts at North America's premiere snow kite lodge, Wyoming High Country lodge.

Snow kiting combines the best of snowboarding, sking and kiting. It allows you to ride practically anywhere, up and down the mountain, across powder filled meadows, rolling terrain, gullies and ridges. You can glide down the face of the mountain as the updraft provides continuous lift for the kite. You can ride for miles in any direction exploring endless powder.

However, it ain't as easy as it sounds.

Just getting there and setting up in the cold weather can be a feat

Huffing around to set up kites and snowgear with five layers of clothes on and an harness at 9500' elevation takes it toll. So does postholing through the powder to get set up.

I'm not gonna lie. It was cold. -20 wind chill. Two base layers, wool sweater, two downs and a shell + two kite mares on my first afternoon out left me wondering what the hell I was doing.

Just like there's no easy way in, there's no easy was out.

The lodge has a snow cat that pulls a trailer out to the best spot for that day's riding. About 15 kiters pack their gear in and ride out the either Terminal A or Terminal B, depending on the wind. It might take an hour or so but once you're there, it acts as base camp for the day. You ride till sunset when they come back and pick you up, towing the trailer back to the High Country Lodge, where the toastiest of toasty meals is waiting for you. The lodge has set the bar high with a full breakfast and dinner served in the great room and warm soup and sandwiches on the mountain.

For four days, we repeated the scenario. Each day got progressively better till the last day I was ripping around on my 9m Ozone hyperlink just as comfortable as I was on the water. I can't say enough about snow kiting to improve your kiting skills. I got some great lessons on kite handling, especially with the 12m foil kite in lighter winds. I switched line lengths from 15m lines to 25m lines and oh my, it's like a whole new performance level on your kite. While the shorter lines work well bringing the kite forward while racing, it doesn't allow you to get the full pendulum swing as longer lines in the lighter breeze.

I was able to downloop the kite right up the mountain and get to even better winds. Coming back down the slope on a snowboard and kite is simply bliss. You can park the kite above you while you carve untouched powder. Skies seem undoubtedly more suited for snowkiting than a snowboard but alas, this dog can only learn one new trick at a time.

The organizer set up activities everyday from a snowkite race to poker runs. It really encouraged you to push yourself and have some fun. The camaraderie was outstanding. I got to know many new kiters, even legends of the sport. Noah Portiz, aka Captain Party, out of Bozman Montana was one of the instrumental pioneers of snow kiting in the Rockies. He's got stories to tell about every spot they've kited in a 1000 mile radius as well as a shot of whisky to share.

Besides the races and poker runs there were Ozone kite demos to try. The single skin foil snow kites have a huge advantage of simplicity. While they are not as performance orientated as the foil race kites, they do get you up, down and launched and landed all very easily.

I really can't emphasize how fun and accessible snow kiting is whether you're a novice or a pro. The hardest step was committing and just getting there, after that the fun was non stop.

www.stevebodner.com

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