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Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one cares

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fernmanus
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Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one cares

Postby fernmanus » Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:55 am

Visit any popular water spot, if you talk about snowkiting their eyes glaze over. We used to get a lot of visitors to Utah for snowkiting, but numbers are way down. You can still get in perfect powder days at Skyline with less than 5 kiters on the hill, go in the morning and you may have the entire area to yourself.

Kind of crazy when you think about it. It would be like going to Capetown and finding no one on the beach. El Niño is delevering the goods this year. Think perfect snow, wind, and terrain plus no people = nirvana! I am not sure if it is the learning curve of kiting at 9500 feet or a couple of sparse winters or if Kiters would rather just fly to a tropical location. Whatever, it is I am not complaining. Just curious if Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana are seeing the same thing?

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby Toby » Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:00 pm

I also wonder why snow kiting does not take off big time!

I think it is fantastic for all areas with snow an some wind!

You should get a nice documentary about it on TV...that should be good promotion.

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby NHKitesurfer » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:18 pm

I'm sure it's been discussed many times over the years but with snowkiting the conditions (for most of us) really need to line up for it to be a pleasant experience where with water all you really need is wind.

Here in the north east we battle lack of snow at times, crappy snow at times with ice layers, lack of ice on the lakes (like right now) and in the winter we typically get gusty winds which aren't fun. Yesterday it was literally going from zero to 40mph.

In a perfect world us snowkiters would go to Utah or or somewhere else out west but many of us don't want to take the chance of planning a trip and getting skunked for whatever reason. If we go to the Caribbean for a week and get skunked we'll still have a heck of a time on the beaches and will at the very least enjoy the warmer weather.

I have time to chase the wind and conditions for snowkiting but many of my friends unfortunately do not.

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby edt » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:42 pm

i think nhk nailed it. for water kiting you need hmm just one thing wind. For snow kiting you wind plus snow. For the last two or three years it has been miserable out west, a lot of guys that booked flights planning on getting some snow kiting in went there and there was plenty of wind but the mountains were bare. Most of us can't just up and buy a ticket at a moment's notice. These things get planned out in advance usually at least 6 months before people head out they have planned it out. so the last few years has made people shy about booking a trip when you are not sure if all the elements will line up. It's a lot easier to book a snowboarding trip because all you need is the snow you don't need snow + wind. It's not that nobody cares it's that you have to book these trips before you know there's an el nino. I mean now sure it's a great time to go there, but the trip never got planned and most people just can't take off at a moment's notice.

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby matthepp » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:48 pm

I agree completely. In SW Colorado we are getting nailed with killer snow conditions this year. Lots of amazing early season days. Interest is also way down. There are a handful of still-interested die hards. A few of my local skier friends dabbled with kiting years ago but no new takers. I'm not blaming the industry but there are no organized events close anymore.
I hope to be even able to wrangle up a partner for today's alpine mission: 20 degrees, deep powder, perfect upslope winds, sunshine.

Kenny you mentioned in other posts that it takes a different set of skills to manage 3D kiting versus, for example, mowing the grass in the SPI lagoon. It's got to be pretty intimidating for 95% of liquid kiters to think about uphill looping, avalanche management, not freezing to death, not having a heart attack digging out of 3' of powder, etc. I think there could be a place for a snowkite guide service model. Similar to a backcountry ski guide that can take an experienced liquid kiter to the best spot for the day, teach a few basic extra snowkite concepts, and give warm flatlanders the time of their lives.

I do agree that getting skunked while sipping Painkillers on the sand is more tolerable than sitting around in freezing conditions in some dirtbag's stinky van or Subaru. Easy for me to say here where we finally have the forecasts and conditions nailed, but I think the ket to a successful mountain kiting trip is to be prepared for non-wind alternatives like gravity skiing. Just being up in the mountains is 1/2 the experience.

The upside of the lack of interest is more deep creamy fluffy untracked powder for me!

I will put an offer out there for any interested KF folks to come join us for an outing, especially this in the spring through May as the days get long and warm and high country access gets quite reasonable...

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby Hardwater Kiter » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:53 pm

I had a whole long thing but in a nutshell....

1) It's hard. If you aren't a solid skier or snowboarder it's hard. If you aren't adaptable and able to ski any condition that arises, you're going to hate it.

2) There's a ton of misinformation about it. Mostly driven by ego, and it confuses people who might have an interest in getting into snow kiting. I think many people have a pretty myopic view of what snow kiting is and don't consider how it varies wildly depending on location. The imagery used in media depicts snow kiting as this stunning back country experience when the reality is for many its a back yard experience. Which by the way makes it no less special. You make do with what you have. Not everyone is looking to ride deep pow, do long tours or "ride terrain". Many just want a cruising, sailing like experience. I find it funny when water riders rave about riding slicks but poo poo those of us who ride lakes or fields.

3) The kite industry doesn't know how to deal with it. Pushing it as the "newest extreme winter sport" for the last 10 years hasn't worked. It's no more or less extreme as lift access alpine skiing. But unless you are a snow kiter and skier/boarder, you won't know that.

4) It's expensive. Kite boarding can be pretty pricey. To have optimal equipment for snow kiting requires substantial gear investment. If you aren't already a dedicated skier or boarder or well off financially, you aren't going to get too deep into snow kiting.

5) Location, location, location. Most kiters live in warmer areas with steady coastal winds. They aren't keen on driving long distances to get skunked because they have the wrong gear for the wind and/or surface conditions. Our clients often initially state that our conditions are "unrideable" until we show them how to make it work via a combination of proper gear and planning. But not everyone finds value in hiring someone who has expertise. Knowing where to go and when does a lot to ensure that you don't get skunked.

6) I think people are figuring out that the the whole "if you have kites and know how to ride them you're half way there" isn't really how it works.

7) Drop off in events. People have burned out and insurance is too high. In the early days of Kitestorm here in New England attendance was nearly 400 people. How many events pull those numbers now? When we were at Mille Lacs there weren't nearly that many. At least Mille Lacs is still going and still draws good numbers in terms of snow kite events. When we first started our business we wanted to hold an event but after jumping through hoops and getting everything lined up we decided against it as it was economically viable. With all the costs and the insurance it wasn't worth pursuing. Unfortunately events are excellent ways to bring snow kiting to the public and showcasing it. But only if they are held in areas where the non-kiting public can see them. If an event could drive lesson bookings and kite sales to a level that offsets the event costs, then maybe we could justify it. My bet is that Stormboarding never made any money off their events. I know we would all like to say we do it for "the love of the stoke" and that money isn't specifically the goal of these events but if you own a business you have to make enough to at least break even and hope that the event brings you support later on. But in a world where there are little to no controls on who sells the gear and how and almost everyone has a brobrah deal somewhere, the resulting after event support probably doesn't pan out.

My 2 cents.

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby Hardwater Kiter » Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:54 pm

Dirt bag's stinky van. :thumb:

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby NHKitesurfer » Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:07 pm

matthepp I'm just a little jelly right now! I would be out there everyday in those conditions and a lot of my die hard friends here in the northeast would be right there with me.

Another issue we have is here in the NE we can choose between water or snow and most go for water even if it means wearing a drysuit. I do both- snow when there is snow (or snow and ice for lakes - last year was epic for both) or I do water when the temps are above 35 degrees.

Information, or lack thereof is a big issue too. For a Caribbean vacation I just go online, look to see where kitesurfers go, look for a hotel or airbnb close by and book the trip. It's hassle free and I know a few days in advance what to expect for weather and wind conditions for the week.

With snowkiting I literally have no clue where to go out west (other than I keep hearing about skyline and big horns out there) and have no idea where to stay or how the conditions are. I like the idea of a guide service to help people with travel details and help them go to the good spots.

The 64,000 questions is do you really want a ton of people snowkiting at your favorite spots? Some of the pristine water spots can get overrun with kiters and that's not necessarily a good thing depending on who you ask.

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby Hardwater Kiter » Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:28 pm

That's an excellent question.

As a snow kite business we walk a fine line between helping people get out and risking spot burning. In reality the only spots we've lost have been due to someone who moved here and not visitors.

You have to weigh the risks and benefits. In my part of the world there are so many options that even if we had 100X the winter kiting activity that we do you are unlikely to run into anyone. We field calls and emails from people "hey, where can we go throw a kite up?". Sometimes they are riders that after a while you feel comfortable sharing information, and sometimes they are people you just don't want showing up and screwing up access. Fortunately the ice element is a bit of a deterrent. Much of the work I do is focused on knowing the ice conditions and minimizing the risk of riding the ice. Fun fact, IKO supplied insurance doesn't cover operating on ice. Which is ironic as the certified us on Lac St. Jean in Quebec.

We are insured for ice operations but at a considerable cost.

The nice thing about teaching and guiding here is that we have a hand in helping people access the areas we use in manner that minimizes the risk of someone doing something to get it shut down. Many people just aren't aware how fragile access can be but if you explain it to them they understand and respect it. And the reality is most people willing to make the effort to contact us and/or hire us tend to be responsible individuals that take access and safety seriously.

We don't get "yahoos". And we don't get the dabblers anymore. Being in a tourist location we used to get people who want to "try" snow kiting. They want the Disney experience. Which lets face it, that isn't what snow kiting is about. I'm happy to say we've distanced ourselves from that.

Last season was amazing. A stark contrast to this season. But our season's coming around finally and the riding on both land and lake has been very good. Although I have to admit I was pricing drysuits in November and December with thoughts of at least improving my water skills while waiting for snow work to spool up.

I can't imagine dealing with crowds. I look at what goes on in places like Tarifa and honestly I'd just quit. But when we have places like Winnipesaukee, 70 square miles of island covered lake riding, crowds aren't much of an issue in the winter.

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Re: Snowkiting - the best part of kiteboarding, but no one c

Postby NHKitesurfer » Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:01 pm

Well put Chris. AND remember, our season last year for many of us really didn't get started until late January and it was one of the most epic of all time in terms of wind, snow and ice all coming together. So there is hope :D

Here is to many epic session for everyone, west and east coast! :thumb:


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