This year was a good year for gliding along the Wasatch Front. I had the pleasure of watching pros like Alex P and Jake as well as accomplished locals like Billy and Ozone kite designer Rob W.
Here are a few things I learned:
1. Speed - If you want good lift you need to really bomb the hill to gain lift in the wing. A big board really helps - Billy started using a 210 snowboard near the end of the season that really helped him rip off the hill.
2. Localized pockets of lift - going off the top of the hill does not always produce the best glides. Look for areas of lift lower down on the hill. A good way to find them is to notice the pull on your kite as you are going up the hill. Another is to look for a sudden drop-off. Bomb down the hill, hit the area of uplift and it will pick you up like an elevator.
3. Kite size - you can glide with a smaller kite, you just need more speed and you need to keep in mind that you will also travel faster through the air. I personally like a big kite. My favorite was a 17M. I like it because in 15 - 25 mph wind I had ample power to go up the hill (just park it, no looping required). Plus, it is great to be powered up when riding deep powder.
4. You don't need a huge hill to glide. A 50 foot hill with the wind blowing up it is perfect for nice 25 foot high controlled glides, just bomb half way down the hill and up you go.
5. You don't have to go high to have fun gliding. In fact, after the first several times going really high and long (1 minute plus glides) gets a little boring. You are just hanging up there forever looking around. Shorter glides are a lot of fun. I figure why take the risk of killing yourself, when you can have a ton of fun staying closer to the ground.
I am sad to see the winter coming to a close. Hopefully, next year we will have safer equipment for gliding. My advice to anyone trying it is to use only new gear that has been throughly inspected, stay low, and have fun.