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Gliding Safety

forum for snow- and landkiters

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Postby fernmanus » Sun Jan 06, 2008 7:58 am

The dangling I am talking about is a result of the harness, climbing or otherwise. It is being connected to the end of a long string that looks kinda silly. Action sports go through a refinement process where participants first concentrate on learning basic trick, then explore the range of possible tricks, then expand the scale of tricks, and finally do everything big and with style. Style usually is comprised of smooth, fluid, controlled motion. Dangling while gliding seems to be currently in direct contrast to style even when done by really good kiters.
I guess it depends on your definition of style. Most handlepasses lack style IMHO. Some of the simpler tricks look better because they can be done with finesse and grace. I agree that gliding does not always look graceful, it depends on the rider just as any jump. However, I can tell you that gliding feels graceful. Instead of a boost, you just sheet-in the bar, lift your legs and float upward on the updraft. The perspective in the air is amazing as well. You get a birds-eye vantage of the entire area.

It may be a flash in the pan for some people, but for me gliding has added more to my stoke for the sport than any other single aspect.

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Postby diablo943 » Sun Jan 06, 2008 6:14 pm

The diversity of experiences possible within snowkiting is one of its strongest assets. Thanks for your great perspective on gliding!


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Postby fernmanus » Mon Jan 07, 2008 8:14 pm


Thanks for being open-minded. I have the same view of rails as you do of gliding, but I figure "different strokes for different folks." Some things are going to stick and some things are not. It is interesting how pickle forks and board offs were all the rage at one time. Time will tell with gliding and rails.

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Postby Buzzy » Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:26 pm

why don't you take a paraglider then?

I find it more intlligent to ride uphill, pack the kite and snowboard down..

I have to agrre to all diablo said,

gliding was cool at some point, but lates moves videos show that the sport has more potential than that.

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Postby SD » Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:53 pm

I'm surprised with the title of this thread being "Gliding Safety" nobody's suggested taking paraglider training as prerequesite knowledge to gliding a kite off of a mountain. I have no inerest in this end of the sport myself, but If I did, I'd want to know the inherent risks that certain wind and terrain conditions might entail so as what to look for/avoid, as well as the equipment safety aspects.

It is my understanding the folks like Alex Peterson and Chasta that popularize this end of the sport on video had a thorough grounding in paragliding and possibly skydiving prior to gliding their kites off of mountain sides.

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Postby fernmanus » Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:06 pm

why don't you take a paraglider then?

I find it more intlligent to ride uphill, pack the kite and snowboard down..

I have to agrre to all diablo said,
I don't think you understand the concept. Gliding is a bit different than paragliding. It differs in the following ways:

1. It is faster due to the smaller size of the kite. Speeds are similar to speedflying.
2. When paragliding or speedflying, if you fly to the bottom of the hill, you have to pack up the wing and either hike or get a ride back up the hill. When you glide, you can use the power of the kite to ride back up the hill.
3. Using a kite allows the flexibility of either making turns down the hill of flying down the hill. You can also choose to glide a short section rather than the entire hill.

I am not advising that you glide off a 3,000 foot peak or anything like that, I am talking about small 100 - 300 vertical foot hills. Short, clean flights with a nice ride back up and do it over again. When you tire of gliding, ride over to the powder stashes and ride them out, go hit a kicker, or slide a rail. Using a kite gives the rider much more flexibility than speed flying or paragliding.

Paragliding experience should be mandatory, but it would be difficult to enforce. I have taken PG and speedflying lessons. I plan to become a certified PG pilot this spring.

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Re: Gliding Safety

Postby Marty » Fri Apr 18, 2008 5:11 pm

I have had the great fortune to snowkite this year, with the designer of the Ozone Frenzy/Manta/Access foils.
Although I mainly fly inflatables, we have had many conversations about backcountry snowkiting and gliding.
After these conversations, my decision is to fly foils when I get more into gliding.
With all the videos on youtube, and with our locals getting so much heights on the glides,
he has put together his views on this growing aspect of our sport.

-Marty 8)

Hi there kiting friends,
I would like to put forward my opinion in the hope that it will help prevent the inevitable.
It is only my humble opinion and by no means do I mean it to sound like it is gospel in any way. I am putting forward what I see as reality from my position and history and that is all. I am sure there is much to be added that I do not know but as to date this is what I have to offer.

A brief background.
I have spent 18 years in paraglider design and development as a test pilot and designer. As a test pilot I was deeply involved with certification and the safety of the paragliders both in flight and structurally regarding the integrity of the materials involved in manufacturing.
As a designer of paragliders that have to pass a rigorous certification, I am used to thinking in terms safety and calculating forces and stress to avoid material fatigue or failure.
I have also learnt that if it can go wrong it will go wrong….
I have also witnessed the loss of life and permanent disability….

First off you must all understand that to myself and Ozone, Snowkiting does not involve flying off hills… That is another sport that I choose to take part in called “being pretty stupid”.
Chasta has been going big for five years now but Ozone has never promoted that side of what he is doing because we and I do not consider it safe or good promotion for the sport of Snowkiting. We could have shown Chata at over 200ft years ago but that would be foolish of us to do that as that is not what we want to promote as Snowkiting. Watch Chasta today and you will see that he flies a long time but never high, he has worked out that that is just dangerous and not very hard, it takes more skill to keep it close to the ground and reduces the risk a little.

And I am the first to hold up my hand and say that I realize just how thin a line I am walking when I fly my kite off the hill. I owe it to myself to understand the dangers and decide if I want to take the risk. I know that an equipment failure at 40ft plus could easily end in serious injury or death depending how lucky I were to be on that particular day!
If you want to be stupid like me then first remember that all your equipment should be in top condition and preferably new! Do not use old kites of any sort, foil or inflatable. Use a climbing harness and carabineer to hook into as well as your kite harness. Inspect your lines, bar and kite for any signs of ANYTHING and if you find anything wrong replace it.
Your life is hanging under something that is not designed for what you are doing so don’t expect it to always go they way you think it is going to…

Weigh up the pros and cons.
I choose a Foil…
I know I am going to fly of hills, I am after all in love with flying one way or another. From what I know I choose a Foil kite for the simple reason that I think it is a safer option. I like the fact that the load of the pilot is more evenly distributed through the lines, the double surface and ribs. It makes perfect sense to me that this is better than say four or five attachment points. I also know they are built to the same standard as a paragliders and I know paragliders are incredibly strong. Paraglider load test takes the maximum pilot weight and then takes it to 8G. I would estimate we could load a foil kite up to about 5G with a 80kg load. We have not tested this but we have tested the Bullet speed wing 10m to 600kg no problemo!

The reason I don’t personally want to ride a tube on the snow…
The very highly tensioned single surface and the tube at high pressure in very cold temperatures where materials start to get brittle, does not excite me. I don’t like the fact that there are so few attachment points distributing my weight. I would worry about them splitting down one of the seams as I have seen happen. I don’t want to pump! If you get a puncture your day is over. I want to be able to launch and land easily and I want small package when it is packed. For sure if you want to just do the same things as you do on water they work fine but if you want to ride up mountains and adventure all over the place like Chasta does then they are not a good option. Inflatables kick ass on the water but I don’t think I will fly one on the snow.

Now having said that we are all fundamentally attached to four lines, bar and a harness… So it comes down to you as to which part you think is going to fail, the lines or the kite. I do know that we have tested well-used flying lines and the results have been very good with lines only dropping 10 to 30% after a full season on the snow and water. I know I can inspect the lines and bar easily and I change my lines regularly during the season. So the kite for me is what I worry about. I also know that this year we have been having problems with our bars!!! Now imagine if one of those went when you were 60ft high! So as pilots we can trust or take anything for granted.

I don’t care really what you do or what type of kite you fly but you should really think about and understand the dangers you are really exposed to. Also remember that when you have a bad accident not only are you going to have a bad day, your friends are as well because the are going to be dealing with your broken ass instead of ripping it up…

Think before you fly!

Take it easy and enjoy.

Rob Whittall.

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Re: Gliding Safety

Postby waynepjh » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:19 pm

After my crash I sure have a differen't view of flying off hills. I thought my equipment was "glide ready" but I missed a scratch on the inside of my bar. I had new lines on my kite but that didn't matter. I love the feeling of flying under the kite and pulling multiple loops but I don't feel that confident anymore even with a new kite. I hope technology develops to make it safer. I have been a paraglider pilot for over ten years and would not of attempted this "kite gliding" with being a pilot and understanding the weather! I want to glide but my balls have gotten smaller!

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Re: Gliding Safety

Postby WGTJH » Sat Apr 19, 2008 10:07 pm

----I wish it was as easily said as done! I've replaced my leads, lines, and chicken loop just last week. It gave me a bit more secure feeling as I've been gliding off the hills. But damn! already there are new little things here and there on my leaders like small frays and such that just appeared from no where. I can't keep replacing my stuff at the slightest sign. I can't afford it and I hate how it takes forever to feed each thing through like a puzzle. My new solution is to stay under 30feet or so over good snow. I'll venture a little higher here and there when I'm gliding in a straight line but for the most part I'll stay low. Also, I prefer by a million times the waterkite over the foil even though foils are getting better I still hate them. Besides! the best part of a glide is how you stick the landing. I'm also glad I made it gliding without reservation all winter incident free. Based on everything everyone is saying I feel pretty lucky, and now it's water time. Made it!

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Re: Gliding Safety

Postby fernmanus » Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:55 am

I'm also glad I made it gliding without reservation all winter incident free. Based on everything everyone is saying I feel pretty lucky, and now it's water time. Made it!
I am not aware of any major injuries this year from gliding - did I miss something? I did see Wayne's leader break on Youtube. I am glad that he was not injured.

I think snowkiting for the most part is a whole lot safer than kiting on the water, even when you throw gliding into the picture. I have seen far more "kitemares" on the water than on the snow. In Utah we have had one death and one serious head injury from kiteboarding. The number of snowkiters here far out numbers the kiters on the water, but I can't think of any significant injuries that occurred on the snow (for which I am grateful). IMHO snow is safer for the following reasons:

1. Wind - where I kite the wind is generally lighter on the snow. If we get 30+ mph wind it usually turns into a white out. I have also never seen microbursts while kiting on the snow, but I have seen them many times on the water.
2. Snow is softer than water - well at least where I snowkite in the Wasatch, the powder or softpack is a whole lot softer.
3. Launching/Landing - since you are launching and landing right where you are going to ride, you don't have the gusty/windshadowed launch areas that you have on the water. You also don't have the hard objects (hard ground, obstacles, rocks, etc.) that frequent most launch areas.

All of that being said, I would like to see gear designed to make gliding safer. In the meantime, I am going to use new gear each winter and check my gear frequently for wear. Just hope I can make it through the summer months on the water :thumb:

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