As the month of November begins its slide towards December, kiters from around Montana are waxing their skis and boards, laying out their lines and getting their first snowkite sessions of the winter. From Mount Haggin to Raynolds Pass, from Island Park to Togwotee, every snow covered and wind-filled kite spot has been seeing accumulating snow depth and kiters shredding that snow on an increasingly regular basis.
A couple nights ago I poured over every weather model, every point forecast, and every NOAA discussion to get an accurate view of where the next day’s wind would be best for kiting. After an hour of carefully dissecting all the information I could gather, I concluded that the region was going to have light wind everywhere. Further, the wind would be decreasing in strength as the day progressed. This was not a good prognosis for a day of snowkiting. My best call, to score a day of wind and snow, was to head up to high elevations and take advantage of being a few thousand feet closer to the jet stream. At least the forecasts and models supported that decision.
So, the following morning my friend Julian and I began our day trip up into the Gravelly Range hoping to reap the bounty of wind we so eagerly wanted. As we drove south, much to our amazement, every typically windy spot on our route was getting pummeled by a strong south wind! So much for accurate forecasting. Checking the remote sensors, sure enough, Raynolds Pass and Island Park were firing. Change of plans – forget about getting high up in the Gravellys - let’s go hit Raynolds!
Raynolds Pass may not offer the most technical terrain, it does not have the steep gliding hills of some kite spots, and being next to a state highway it is certainly not wild backcountry. But it does have soft powder, clean reliable wind and plenty of space for a rewarding session. For Julian’s first day of the winter season, our park-n-ride kiting could not have been better: Fifteen degrees, 11m kites, fresh snow and lots of sunshine.
As the day progressed and the sun cast long shadows across the heavily tracked out meadows, we both thought that the wind would back off and get soft on us. Wrong again. Our second session was even more lit up, our boosts were higher, our ascents faster and our whoops and shouts even louder! At sunset we were joined by Brent, a fellow kiter who entertained us as we finished up our session with the last light of the day.
Sometimes every bit of scientific data will not reveal the reality that comes from stepping out one’s door and feeling the wind in your face. I’ll still keep checking the models and reading the forecast discussion. I will also have faith in the local knowledge that certain places get a lot more wind than any computer model will ever know.
Thanks for reading and see you out there,