For those folks who are itching to try kiteboarding but can't make it to the beach, snow kiting or kite skiing can be a fun and arguably easier alternative. Snow kiting is just as new as kiteboarding, and avid kiteboarders, skiers, and snowboarders alike are all catching on to this new sport.
Snow kiting even has its own line-up of events and tournaments throughout the world, like the Snowkite Masters held in France, and the U.S. Snowkite Open held in desolate snowy destinations, like Montana and Utah. Typically held only during the winter months of November through March, many West Coast states host a number of similar events and competitions. Snow kiting rallies are especially popular, like the Intermountain Snowkite Rally and the Tugg Hill Snowkite Rally in Tugg Hill, New York.
One of the reasons for the rise in popularity of snow kiting is its accessibility for those who doesn't necessarily have the means to travel to the water. Lift tickets are not required, as snow kiting can be done in any large, open snow-covered field. While kiteboarding requires some wind, preferably an average wind of 20 mph or so, snow kiting can be done with just a slight breeze.
Many adventure sport enthusiasts also attest that snow kiting is much easier to learn, as you don't have to battle with currents or choppy waters and waves, and it is much easier to stand on snow and hold an edge. Snow kiting can also be less expensive than kiteboarding, since you don't need a special board to take flight - you can just strap on your skis or snowboard and take off.
You will, however, need a particular kite called a foil kite in order to hit the snow. These kites have a solid infrastructure and are not easily damaged, making them ideal for fields that might be bordered by trees or rougher terrain. For challenging rides, you should look into purchasing a power kite, which is an offshoot of the foil kite.
If you are new to the sport, it is not a god idea to start with a larger power kite. It is best to start with a "trainer" or "beginner" kite, which is a high quality kite, but much less expensive than some of the larger versions. These budget kites are more or less disposable, so you do not have to worry about damage to the equipment. In addition, these beginner kites are a great option for snow kiters who just want to get a handle on the basics, then move on to something larger. These smaller kites can also be used in very windy conditions, while the larger power kites can be dangerous in winds over 25 mph.
No matter which kite you buy, make sure it is attached to a bar, and not to handles, as this is the preferred equipment for most professional snow kiters. You can purchase a kite from a local sporting goods store, or a reputable company with an online catalog, like North Carolina based kite shops Kitty Hawk Kites, REAL Watersports or Blowing in the Wind.
Once you have your equipment, it's time to find a location. Look for grassy, open, snow-covered areas with no obstructions upwind that will disrupt the windflow to your kite. Also, you'll want to avoid anything downwind or to your sides that might catch and damage your kite. Avoid active streets and highways, crowded areas, and high concentrations of power lines, just in case you lose control.
You'll also want to aim for ideal wind conditions, as a kite's lifting power increases dramatically as the wind speed increases. For example, when the wind doubles and picks up from 15 knots to 30 knots, the kite's pull increases four times. This can be the difference between feeling sporty tension from the kite, and being dragged, or yarded, while losing control of the kite and your direction. When you're just starting off, be sure to begin in safe, lower wind speeds so you can maintain proper control of your kite at all times.
As you progress, you are sure to find snow kiting is an exciting and challenging sport, and an easy fix for kiteboarders who just can't escape for a weekend at the beach.