7 Things to Know About Snowkiting

The feel­ing of charg­ing down a steep, pow­dery slope while let­ting grav­i­ty do its thing is electrifying—it’s almost like fly­ing. But what if you could add anoth­er dimen­sion to ski­ing or snow­board­ing: what if you could har­ness the wind to take you faster and high­er than ever before? That’s what snowk­it­ing is all about.

Pegged by many to be the next big win­ter sport, snowk­it­ing is the per­fect activ­i­ty for thrill-seek­ing snow fanat­ics. Here are sev­en things to know about the sport:

Snowk­it­ing: A Def­i­n­i­tion
Think of kitesurf­ing: the water sport where a per­son uses a large kite to bor­row the pow­er of the wind, pro­pelling them (and the small surfboard/wakeboard bound to their feet) across the water. Snowk­it­ing (some­times called “kite board­ing”) is sim­i­lar to kitesurf­ing, except for two main details. First, instead of a surf­board or wake­board, the footwear of choice is a pair of skis or a snow­board. Sec­ond, instead of glid­ing over the top of the water, snowkiters glide above ice or snow—uphill, down­hill, or straight across.

The Birth of Snowk­it­ing
Ger­man Dieter Strasil­la is cred­it­ed with the birth of the sport, though a num­ber of oth­ers served as inspi­ra­tion and co-exper­i­menters along the way. Strasil­la spent the bet­ter part of the 1960s try­ing to devel­op a wind-pro­pelled ski­ing sport, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he came up with the pro­to­type for the snowkite. His con­trap­tion allowed him to glide along snow, but also to lift him­self into the air.

The sport con­tin­ued to evolve through­out the 1980s. Amer­i­cans wide­ly embraced snowk­it­ing, and the rest of the world began to catch on, too. Equip­ment and tech­nolo­gies became more sophis­ti­cat­ed, and the rid­ing itself evolved to include more involved tricks.

Snowk­it­ing Today
While it’s still con­sid­ered to be some­what of a niche sport, snowk­it­ing is grow­ing rapid­ly. Just about every coun­try that gets snow has a ded­i­cat­ed com­mu­ni­ty of snowkiters, but it’s espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar in coun­tries like the Unit­ed States, Cana­da, Ice­land, Switzer­land, France, Rus­sia, Aus­tria, and New Zealand. The cul­ture of snowk­it­ing now includes mag­a­zines, films, and dif­fer­ent types of competitions.

Get the Gear
The right kite is para­mount to snowk­it­ing: foil kites are the most pop­u­lar option, since they are soft with­out hard frames. They’re easy to pack, are quite durable, are eas­i­ly con­trolled and are a breeze to set up. Oth­er options exist too, like inflat­able kites. The right size depends on a few fac­tors, like the wind speed, the type of ter­rain (hard packed snow ver­sus deep pow­der, for instance), the rider’s skill lev­el and the rider’s weight.

For your low­er half, your reg­u­lar skis or snow­board (and cor­re­spond­ing boots) will serve you just fine. Don’t for­get a hel­met, ice safe­ty gear, warm cloth­ing and per­haps a few pads, espe­cial­ly if you’re snowk­it­ing over ice (ouch!).

Skis or Snow­board?
Ah, the age old debate. When it comes to snowk­it­ing, both ski­ing and snow­board­ing are incred­i­bly fun. Each, how­ev­er, has its own advan­tages. Skis can hold their edges at very high speeds and are typ­i­cal­ly eas­i­er to con­trol. A snow­board will mim­ic the feel­ing of kitesurf­ing on water, giv­ing you a ride that’s incred­i­bly smooth and flowy.

Learn How to Snowkite
First, it helps to be a pro­fi­cient ski­er or snow­board­er pri­or to tak­ing up snowk­it­ing. Next, you need to become com­fort­able fly­ing a kite. You can rent train­ers to learn how to prop­er­ly con­trol a kite. Once you’ve deter­mined that you are com­pe­tent on your skis/board and in maneu­ver­ing a kite, you’re ready to try snowk­it­ing. Your next step is to enroll in a les­son. It’s tempt­ing to try to fig­ure it out as you go, but you’re far bet­ter off tak­ing the time to learn prop­er tech­niques and safe­ty pro­to­cols. Snowk­it­ing is a high-risk sport that requires some very spe­cif­ic skills, so it’s best to learn from the pros.

The Future of Snowk­it­ing
As a rel­a­tive­ly young sport, the fron­tiers of snowk­it­ing are con­stant­ly expand­ing. Many snowkiters are con­tent play­ing around on frozen lakes, but oth­ers are push­ing the bound­aries with mul­ti-day expe­di­tions in the back­coun­try, endurance rac­ing and even cliff jumping.

Just as ski­ing and snow­board­ing con­tin­ue to evolve, snowk­it­ing, with its added dimen­sion of air, will sure­ly con­tin­ue to grow in the years to come. Need­less to say, it’s an excit­ing time to be a snowkiter.