1 to 6 concept is simple… 1 is easy and 6 is impossible…that’s all you really need to know to use it. Many of you can stop reading here, but enthusiasts, intermediate and experts should scrutinize this.
Don’t try to make it harder than it actually is. That tends to be the trend of the skeptic. Skeptics are welcome but consider this effort a deep collaboration with no stone unturned. If you don’t think it’s easy then it’s likely you don’t understand.
Every location is “Fundamentally” rated with IDEAL CONDITIONS (basically as easy as a spot gets), and each spot is rated by locals. There is a grounded scale for fundamental ratings (at the bottom in the technical document).
The Practical rating is for forecasting the future and looking back to the past. If conditions are perfect the Fundamental rating holds. If the snow adds challenges you bump up the rating based on snow. If the wind forecast adds challenges you bump up the rating from wind. If both add challenge then you reflect that within your rating. You apply the 1 to 6 scale to any factor that increases challenge.
The “Practical” use of the scale is to be used flexibly in language. You can use it however you want. Using the scale will define it…so use it! “I’m 10 miles out and my sled won’t start!!!” (class 5+).
The ultimate goal is for snowkiters to imagine where they fit on the scale of 1 to 6 through experience. You are asking yourself “what level of Snowkiter are these conditions suited for?” it’s as simple as that. A beginner is looking for 1 and 1+ spots with ideal conditions (class 1 snow, class 1 wind, class 1 access) for success and safety. Experienced snowkiters moving off the flats will seek out class 3 terrain with ideal conditions and from there it gets gradually harder as you move up the scale.
For me personally this scale is a solution for pushing the top end of our sport until we can agree on a way to work together to compete, or race, push an association and so on. In many other graded sports i.e. climbing, kayaking, mountaineering...you can evolve skills by moving up the technical scale. We hope to achieve this as a community of snowkiters together.
Here are ratings from around the US with a couple from France for reference. I’ve pasted the technical Document at the bottom for reference.
Todd Cuzzens: Bighorn Mountains,WY
Medicine Mtn/Porcepine Creek Road: Class 1, add a + when you approach the fence or hills.
County Line: Class 2. More remote and you have the possibility of touring to Rooster Hill which I may consider approaching 3. Good spot for Northerly winds…
NW Shoulder of Baldy: Class 2-4 depending on how high up you may go.
SW and SE Bowls of Baldy: Class 2-4+ depending on how high up you may go.
Flats between Baldy and Little Baldy: Class 1 when the road is open, otherwise Class 2 until you go north of the corrals or start climbing Little Baldy.
Pascal Joubert, France
Lautaret, France – Class 3 small/medium terrain with some obstacles
Trois Evechs, France- Class 4 with epic class 5 access
Charles Symons, Wy
Togwotee Road Side, Wy: Class 2/3 it’s ultimately class 3, and if it’s early season crossing the bridge is a class 4 move. The Class 2 is the flat spot by the road which is workable for beginners to fly kites and move around, but it’s not ideal class 2.
Sublet Bowl, Wy: Class 4 experience with 1 hr ski tour approach. Epic adventure with a class 6 consequence down wind at all times which is a 1500’ vertical cliff. There’s plenty of room, but high consequences to mistakes.
Wayne Phillips, Wy
Union Peak, Wy: Class 3 sled access with large climbable slope feature with cliff and tree obstacles. It’s a very large area with the largest challenge being the sled access.
Union Pass, Wy: Class 2 sled access but easy to find. Drive up union pass road from Dubois and you’ll find massive open areas with wind and friendly terrain all along the groomed snowmobile trail.
Ron Orton: Island Park, ID
The Wave, Henry’s Lake, Idaho Class 4 (N 15-30) While the terrain immediately surrounding this terrain feature is fairly innocuous (Class 2). The feature itself has the potential for mishaps because it's a massive cornice. The most common mishap is the potential for lines to get caught causing the rider to be pinned against the face of the cornice while the kite death spirals.
Hungry Bear, Island Park, Idaho Class 1 (SE-SW 12-25).
Zebulon Jakub, NH
Omni mount Washington: Class1-3 Trees / bumpy ground w/ hills,NW winds are best, Ground conditions are best with 1-2 feet of snow. Must pay to ride ($10 day pass)
The Rust Gorham, Maine: Class1-2 Can be gusty as all heck during west winds Must have personal permission per year to ride. On a fairly large hill so up high winds can certainly be stronger.
Mount Washington, NH: Class 4-5 Avalanche hazards, remoteness, pinnacle like summits, strong lifting winds, typically ice, more exposed rocks than anywhere but the moon, must have a permit to guide. Winds directions can vary but NW and W are typical. SW and SE are the best. Rare calm rideable winds from the NE are excellent but rare.
Brian Fox, UT
Powder Mountain, UT 15-25 S-SW: class 2+ Not that steep but not that flat either. Trees and a ski resort if you get blown down wind. Riding from the parking lot is probably class 3 with lots of trees to navigate, less experienced kiters should walk out instead of launching from the parking lot.
Roadside Monte Cristo, UT 20-30 S: Class 1-2 Launch area is in a wind shadow. Rolling hills and flats. Low consequences if you have a kitemare.
Stephen Barnhill, ID
Antelope Flats (Ririe) idaho. Class 2 (SE 15-25)
Botts wind meter, Idaho. Class 2 (SW 15-25) Some pivots for obstacles.
Bryce Johnson, MN:
Most spots where people kite in MN are class 1 to class 2. Rating goes up for smaller gusty lakes, deep snow, or lakes in the middle of cities (Calhoun)
Mille Lacs Lake - Garrison, MN - Class 1 Check to make sure ice is safe. Watch for poor ice around ice heaves. Very Clean wind from NE - E - SE. You can drive out on the lake to get good wind from other wind directions. There is a fee to drive out for lake access when kite events are not going on.
Mille Lacs Lake - Malmo, MN - Class 1 Check to make sure ice is safe. Watch for poor ice around ice heaves. Very Clean wind from NW - W - SW. You can drive on lake to get good wind from other wind directions.
North Long Lake, MN - 371 Bay - Class 1 First lake in the area to get good ice. Check to make sure ice is safe before walking or driving out. Good wind NE - E - SE - S
Lake Calhoun, MN - Class 3 Lake right in the middle of Minneapolis. Lake is completely surrounded by city roads and a walking path. Caution is to be used near any people or roads. Problems here could potentially limit access throughout the state. Can have gusty wind depending on wind conditions. Stronger winds will be more gusty. Convenient for people living in the area. Not recommended to kite during the summer.
Cross Lake, MN - Class 1 Access in Crosslake Campground. Check to make sure ice is safe before walking or driving out. Good for N - NW - W - SW winds and can be slightly gusty times.
Pelican Lake - Crow Wing County, MN - Class 1 Walk out access in breezy point at playground. Drive out access at Marina. Check to make sure ice is safe before walking or driving out. Good for S - SE - E. OK for all other wind directions if you drive out enough. Fishermen plow roads out to their ice houses.
James Brown, Co
Dillon Reservoir: Class 1 Ice thickness and snow coverage may vary. Wind direction varies with wind shadows depending on direction. Typical winds are from the Northwest. There are two main launch zones: Near the marina on the Northeast corner of the lake and Farmer’s Corner on the South end of the lake at the Blue River inlet.
Loveland Pass: Class 4 Gusty mountain wind and variable terrain can be challenging. Snowpack varies with areas of fresh snow in the bowls and thinner wind-scoured snow closer to the exposed rock across the entire upper ridge. There is no safe downhill landing, only steep mountainside with trees, rocks and highway below.
Bob Randolph, MT
Georgetown Lake-Class 1
Grassy Mountain-Class 3 Snowmobile or hike up about 3 miles. Usually wind scoured with some sage brush. Better snow but sometimes gustier wind down low. There’s easier class 2 terrain on the northern and southern sides of the moderately steep SW face. Look for south or west winds.
Dry Creek-Class 2 is a nice park and ride spot with gently rolling terrain. Can be some wind shadows if you venture back in the trees. Parking isn't always plowed. Dry creek works on most wind directions with south to west being best.
French Creek/Showboat hill-Class 1 is in the field across road from the parking area. Wind can get light and flukey as you approach the cornice. It’s Class 2 above the parking area and 2-3 beyond the cornice. Kiting on the cornice and navigating over it is often technical due to the kite-eating willows but may be worth the risk because there is miles of rolling terrain beyond. Watch for barb-wire fences and be prepared for a long walk out if you venture too far away. Look for south or west wind but NE and east also work.
Keving Passmore, Colorado
Flat Tops Crane Park (N of Glenwood Springs, Colorado) Class 2/3 Access 14miles on machine, snow is typically deep and requires skill to launch & get upwind.
Taylor Pass (S of Aspen, Colorado) Class 3-4 Rolling valleys- high altitude (12,000ft)
McMillian Peak (Red Mountain Pass, Colorado) class 3 Low-moderate angle slopes ascending above treeline, high altitude
NW face of Sniktau peak (Loveland Pass, Colorado) class 4 High altitude gusty winds, shallow snowpack, downwind hazards, avalanche hazards
Lake Dillon (Dillon, Colorado) class 1-2 Lake, wind can be gusty and exceed 60mph… thus extremely dangerous when strong & variable
Mike Kratochwill, MN
Medicine Lake, MN - Class 1 Access on East Beach off Hwy 169, West Beach, and Clifton E French Park (paid lot) Check to make sure ice is safe before walking or driving out. Good for all directions in winter but can be gusty. When roads get plowed ride able area gets reduced
Lake Waconia, MN - Class 1 DNR access East side of lake gets congested with others accessing; SE corner park access has paid lot. Check to make sure ice is safe before walking or driving out. Island can cause wind shadow. Good for all directions in winter but can be gusty.
White Bear Lake, MN - Class 1 Access near Kowalskis, Ramsey Beach, Bellaire Beach and Mahtomedi Beaches Good for all directions in winter but can gusty. Make sure ice is safe.
Lake Calhoun, MN - Class 3 Lake right in the middle of Minneapolis. Lake is completely surrounded by city roads and a walking path. Caution is to be used near any people or roads. Problems here could potentially limit access throughout the state. Area can have gusty wind depending on wind conditions. Stronger winds are typically gustier. It’s convenient for people living in the area. Not recommended to kite during the summer.
Scott Ryan, Co
Lake Dillon (sanitarium) - Frisco, CO - Class 1 Clean wind from the N, hard pack snow conditions
Corona Bowl/ Rawlins Pass - Winter Park, CO - Class 2+ Clean wind from the W – NW Powder & packed powder snow conditions Remote location only accessible by sled Varied terrain of moderate grade with some obstacles on the edges and some good sized hills to play with
Snow Mesa/ Spring Creek Pass - Between Creede & Lake City, CO - Class 2-4 (depending on zone) Clean wind from NW - W - SW. SW is best for terrain. Terrain varies from flat powder/packed powder on the lower areas to steep bowls & cornices near Mt. Baldy Cinco (13383) and additional bowls to the south. From the parking lot at the top of Spring Creek Pass, it is about 1.5 miles to access the open terrain. The vast size of this area requires some navigational skills, especially if visibility is poor.
This is the final draft collaboratively constructed with input from over 70 participating snowkiters around the US. This is a technical way to execute the grading. It is important for experienced snowkiters to understand the details as they will be grading the terrain and conditions.
Snowkite Terrain Scale of Difficulty Grades 1 to 6 Universal Concept Final Draft:
This concept embodies the main focus of the Bighorn Snowkite Summit which was protecting our areas access, and promoting safe practices. This scale is intended to help a Snowkiter to know his own skills and appropriately challenge himself without getting in over his head. Hopefully this will help our snowkiting community guide people to the right conditions and terrain for their ability.
The 1 to 6 scale defines snowkite terrain with a fair and comprehensive system that is understandable without regard to a person’s language or knowledge of the sport. After considering many scales (e.g. skiing, paragliding, whitewater kayak, etc.) we believe the 1 to 6 grading system will function well and has universal appeal to snowkiting communities around the world.
Let’s get on board for this concept as a community of snowkiters to help define conditions. The grading has 2 facets, the Fundamental Rating which is fixed and objective and the Practical Rating which varies depending on conditions.
The Fundamental Ratings is terrain based, disregards wind and snow conditions and is reflective of ideal conditions. This would be the definite rating of an area and might be printed in guidebooks. Bondurant is class 3 for example. A spot is never easier than its fundamental rating.
The reason we don’t want conditions to affect the Fundamental Rating is because the variables are too broad. You should always be seeking ideal conditions for each area and especially for Class 3 and up.
Under this grading system the most difficult route possible is 5+. If someone manages to kite up class 6 such as a vertical rock wall it is still class 6. It is not downgraded to class 5+. Because uncontrolled flight and mishaps in the air present significant danger, all grades assume that kiters will not jump, fly, or glide any higher than they can safely fall.
Forecasting of wind and snow conditions is included with the Practical Rating. This uses the same 1 to 6 scale but includes snow, wind, or any factor relating to conditions and is temporal. For example “tomorrow that class 1 area will be Class 3+ with that forecast, so it will not be ideal for learning to snowkite, but a class 3 kiter might have fun.” The rating can move up in difficulty due to conditions such as deep snow, wind ridges, icy crust, gusty wind or anything that adds difficulty. When it comes to conditions that are impossible to snowkite it becomes class 6. This is a community based scale and up to you to judge conditions. A more experienced snowkiter will generally provide better ratings. The practical rating is never less than the Fundamental Rating.
We believe as long as we keep the Fundamental Rating grounded; the Practical Rating will grow as we use it in our “snowkite Language” and become conveniently useful.
So let’s keep the Fundamentals simple and grounded:
Class 1 is the ideal surface on which to learn. Flat hardpack or shallow powder that is fast and easy to walk in with no obstacles. Minimal maneuvering is required to navigate the terrain. The consequences of kiter mistakes are not increased by the terrain.
Class 2 has some obstacles, small rolls in terrain and might have deep powder, and/or icy crusty snow. The ability to maneuver around the terrain is required.
Class 3 has large-scale terrain features, a number of obstacles, large wind shadows, deep powder and/or icy crusty snow. More advanced maneuvering techniques are required for effectively navigating the terrain, and the ability to ski or ride on terrain without unintentionally leaving the ground is important.
Class 4 has larger scale terrain features with some technical moves around obstacles, strong wind shadows, and greater consequences to mistakes. Understanding lift, avalanches, and the risks associated with remoteness are essential skills for this terrain.
Class 5 is the highest level of extreme terrain because the consequences of kiter mistakes and mishaps are considerable and include hazard to life. Terrain is very steep with many obstacles that kiters are forced to navigate. Extreme remoteness and technical launches and landings are frequent.
Class 6 is terrain that cannot safely be kited, it is beyond the scope of snowkiting.
Here’s a practical example:
How hard is Bondurant snowkite area here in Wyoming? It is fundamentally class 3 by definition. How will it be tomorrow with the SW storm wind and whiteout forecasted? It could be 3+ or 4- for the day. That is because the wind is the wrong direction and the snow cover isn’t great. It will be pushing your limits as a class 3 snowkiter and over your head as a 2. If you wait for ideal NW blue sky conditions with proper coverage you will have the best day possible for a class 3 snowkiter and be properly pushing your limits as a strong class 2.
An area can have more than one Fundamental Rating, but you must think to yourself ‘what level of kiter is this area truly suited for?’ Bondurant does have some class 2 terrain, but it simply isn’t suited for class 2 snowkiters. They will have a frustrating day and need to walk back to the car. Skyline for example has Fundamental class 1+ and 2, with 3 on the hills around the edges. It is a good place to teach snowkiting with ideal conditions.
It is up to local snowkiters to consider the difficulty of their terrain and conditions then present them to fellow snowkiters. Please try to keep the Fundamental scale true. You don’t want to say you have a class 3 spot because it’s always gusty class 3 conditions. You’ll have to say this is class 1 terrain, but always gusty class 3 conditions at best. This is a case where we bend the rules of the Fundamental Rating reflecting “ideal conditions.” If someone seeks out class 3 snowkiting, they should be seeking the terrain not the gusty wind. Class 4 conditions on a class 1 surface might be an epic powered session on flats, but it is distinctly different than a class 4 spot with class 4 conditions.
Last edited by knewschool
on Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:32 am, edited 4 times in total.