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Snowkiting?

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Living in a place that's covered in snow from about Nov. through April, a snowkite is a little more practical than kite-boarding on water (the liquid kind) for me. Also as an avid skier, I think the learning curve will be much smaller (for the life of me I can't handle boards). Anyone else in to the snowy side of kiting? Worth it to get a dedicated snow kite, or would a pneumatic kite be more well rounded?

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I have done a little snowkiting and used "normal" inflatable kites, because I already have those and they work fine.

 

The more serious snowkiters use the non-inflatible kind because they are lighter when you want to get to a mountain top or something (no need to carry a pump either!).

Flysurfer are a popular brand: http://flysurfer.com

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I have the non-inflatable ram air kite because it's so much cheaper, but I would prefer the inflatable, so much easier to relaunch.

 

One thing I learned ... don't go too big on snow, my 4.5 meter is practically too big part of the time. Snow and a decent board offers a lot less resistance than water. If you're hauling up a mountain you'll need some area, but I have so far only kited on pretty flat fields, hoping to go to the ice-fishing lake before the end of the season.

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I've been snow-kiting for a few years now (the lake freezes over here from some time in Dec to March). Most people around here use standard inflatable kites and they work really well (plus they are readily available on the second-hand market). A ram-air foil will hold its value longer (less things to fail expensively like a bladder), and there are a few guys who use them around here, but the overaell sentiment is that the inflatables are inexpensive (definitely buy used as the kite rubbing on ice/snow does a much better job of wearing a new kite than water), and plus they work on water if you want to try it.

 

I currently have a 12m and 10m (10m was bought before the 12m, which I got for a bit more low-end on the light days around here), and I tend to borrow a mate's 7m when the wind gets up. How big a kite you use on snow depends on the conditions, very thin surface layer of snow over ice means a small kite, but often we have a few inches of snow (sometimes hard-packed, but the skis still bite well) and then the kite can be a bit bigger. For reference, I play on flat lakes and generally with enough snow to have lots of grip, my 12m works well starting around 8-10knts of wind, the 10m is nice from 12-13knts until I get overpowered (which depends on the particular conditions), the 7m we can pull out from about 16-20knts and up (condition depending).

 

My 10m is still my primary kite most days and was 3 years old when I got it (and 2 or 3 people had learned on it) and I've used it for 3 years with lots of kiting and dragging it around when I was learning. The kites are built pretty well...

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Thanks for the info. The vast majority of kiting for me would involve deep snow. I walked around my boat trailer yesterday and was halfway up my thighs in snow (i'm 6'5).

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Once you get out in the fields and on the frozen lakes, that powder tends to get wind-blown and compressed a surprising amount. What might be knee deep in a sheltered boat yard may be hard-packed only a few inches deep in the middle of a field or lake.

 

At 6'5" you're about my size, I'd recommend about a 10m kite to get started if you're going to get something for general purpose. You'll find that you can fly it in about 8-9knts and it'll pull you from about 10-12knts which isn't too much for a beginner to handle. Keep in mind that the smaller the kite, in general the faster it will respond to input and the touchier it'll be (conversely, bigger kites are slower and easier to control).

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nice to see a discussion about snow kiting! I have been at it several years and would add that learning to kite on the snow is quite a bit easier than in the water, plus you can always walk home... on lakes, I have seen that there is very rarely powder deeper than knee deep because it pushes down on I the ice and fills up with water. example: this afternoon, the lake I kited on had about 15 cm of powder on top of 20 cm of slush, and finally thick ice.

I have two kites, a 15m and a ten. the 15 has more power in light winds, but the 10 gets in the air in even lighter winds.

Check the wind patterns in your area before getting a kite... in my area we have mostly lighter breezes so the kites are large. A couple buddies of mine fly 21m foils, but I can't really recommend them because they are realllly slow and easily overpowered. although having unlimited power when you can barely feel the wind is pretty cool.

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one more thing, make sure that the kite you get can "reverse launch' . on the water, kites generally relaunch easily if there is enough wind to kitesurf. you need a lot less wind to snowkite, so it is nice to have a kite that relaunches easily. relaunching my 15 is a real pain, whereas my 10 is a piece of cake to relaunch.

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The trick with snowkiting is picking the right kite. Today I was out and we had everything from a snowboarder on a 14m to a skier on a 7m, on water you would never see that (unless one of them was struggling their way in), becuase you need so much less to get going on snow and ice it's very easy to take a kite out that's too small. As I've found out, that is great for beginners (you can seriously underpower them without worries), but when you try to transfer your experience to water you'll feel as if you're very powered up all the time (which is the point, it's harder to push through water and thus needs more power). The kite you choose should also depend on the snow surface, what you're riding, etc, and even a single size bigger or smaller can make an ok day a great day; to that effect, around here on a busy day you'll see stacks of kites of all different sizes that people have set up in case the wind changes, a bit like on a big kiting beach.

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I didn't watch the whole thing, just skimmed through it. They are rigging 17m kites on snow, there can't be much above 3-5knts out there (though I guess a 17m can go up to about 8-10knts of wind before you should really change down).

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How much disturbed air must be hitting the leeward-most kites?

I would imagine lots.

 

No different from starting third row on a crowded starting line.

When I've been out with a dozen people in the local spot I've not noticed much disturbed air, but then again I've not lined up and I've not tried pushing it in a crowd. I guess you have the benefit of moving down in the window to clear your air...

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Good to see both boards and skis and both inflatables and rams at the competition. I've only done a bit of this on flat fields and lakes, generally with a 9m or 12m kite and skis, but would love to try it in hills sometime.

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My advice would be to check first what year, brand, & model of kite. Then check with some active kiters to find out if the gear is a good deal or not. Generally speaking you should not buy gear older than 2009. Also, be sure to take some lessons.

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I'm getting my quiver together, about to get a 7m, and looking for a 10m for the calmer days, add both the to 5m traction kite that I used as my trainer. Hoping on Lake Dillon eventually, but to start, one of the fields near me, 10 minute ride versus 3 hours or so.

 

I have a decent Limited (pretty hefty) Swiss snowboard with Clicker step-in bindings.

 

Any suggestions or looming problems anyone can see with this setup?

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Joint protection. Knee/elbow pads, helmet, etc. What kites are you looking at?

 

Pads. Never gave it Though Number One. I guess it makes sense, there are plenty of rocks around.

 

My current kite is an HQ traction kite, launching it just sucks, so much so that I just don't want to use it. The inflatable 7m is an Ozone, one season, if it looks good tomorrow I'll get it. I'm told to try to stick to all the same style across the quiver, but the 10m - 11m Ozone is pretty expensive, why not mix brands? I've seen really affordable one and two season kites in that size from various makes.

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Finished some lessons a couple weeks back; and just ordered a 15m 'Smart II' for snow kiting / land boarding. That should cover me about 75% of the time - AB tends to be really light air compared to the coast.

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I was laughing so hard at Timo's Jesus light switch joke, and then I see the single most hilarious SA handle of all time ... "Polio."

 

No other crippling, iron lung disease would be nearly as hilarious as that here.

 

Anyway, 15m, jealous. The wind at our altitude varies between need for 0.5m and 18m kites, with pretty much nothing in between.

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Be careful with that. I'm 6'7", 235 pounds and I use a 10 year old 7.5 meter foil kite. Usually it's more than enough.

Don't be surprised to go from having the time of your life to being puckered tighter than a sour oak knot in a nanosecond.

And, it doesn't matter how much experience you have, that puckering can happen to anyone, at any time.

Good luck! Have fun!!!

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Biggest factor in the winter is the snow conditions. I've seen days where it's blowing 10-12 knts over nearly sheet ice and it's scary to be out on a 10m, I've also seen days with powder a foot deep and nearing 20knts and a 10m was comfortable (getting to the upper limit, but controllable).

 

Definitely the first time (or couple times) you fly a kite you've never tried before it doesn't hurt to be cautious and go for lower winds than you think are necessary, then consider the ground surface; slick surfaces (ice or VERY hard packed snow) need basically no power to get you going as there's basically no friction (you just keep accelerating), but if you're in a couple inches of poofy powder you'll need a bit more to tug you along through the snow.

 

The top rule is always bail on the session before you get hurt. If it's starting to look like you're going to struggle, pack it up. The nice bit about the winter is you can always walk home.

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I "flew" a 13m LEI for the first time last week so I'm a complete beginner. Extremely light winds, just enough to have someone toss it in the air, fly a turn or two before it would stall and fall down. Been bombing around with a foil trainer all week, fairly comfortable with kite control but I haven't used a depower system yet.

 

Conditions vary wildly here, it could be a 5kt wind one day and 25kt the next. I will definitely be cautious and start out in light winds and gradually ramp it up. I'll pick up a smaller kite in the future if I need less power for windy days.

 

It's a 10m ozone access so it should be pretty well behaved. Right now there is 6-10in of snow over the ice, and I'm probably 230 with gear on so I don't think I'll be too out of control. Aside from a few days early in the season we almost never have actual ice up here, snow's way too much, so I'll always be skiing in fairly deep conditions. From what I've read I'm pretty sure I'll be wanting a more powerful kite sooner than later, but hopefully not. I'll take a video and capture any shenanigans so I can share with you guys :D

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I don't have much experience with foil kites in lighter air, but the LEI kites really need to keep moving. If it can tug you then let it go, drive it through a sin-wave a few times and you'll be cruising happily. Unlike most sailboats, it's easier to "drift" upwind in light wind with a kite than downwind.

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I'm curious to see how skiing upwind works on these things. I'm guessing you have to get moving first and really get the apparent wind up before you can start working your way upwind.

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Not really. The more wind there is the closer you can fly to the edge of the window. As long as the kite isn't perpendicular to the way you want to go and is facing the right way you'll move (though slowly if it's nearly perpendicular). The only thing to keep an eye out for is make sure that there is always flow over the kite from front to back, as soon as you let the flow (a combination of true wind, your speed and the kite's movement) reverse or stall on the kite it's going to come down. In light winds you'll experience this plenty (and you can easily stall the kite by cranking on the rear lines), as the wind picks up it (obviously) gets harder to stall the kite (but it's always possible). Certainly with newer LEI kites it's more difficult to stall them than the kites from a decade ago...

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Whelp... that was interesting. Hopefully I had a twist in the bridle or something else wrong because this kite is seriously lacking in power. It was fairly light, but steady. The kite didn't seem like it wanted to fly that well, very slow turning, easy to stall. As soon as you pull on the bar to "power" it up, it stalled. It would only fly with the bar all the way out. As soon as I sailed below 90 degrees to the wind, the kite wanted to fall. I thought that was the fastest point of sail with these things... Anyway, will try again tomorrow maybe. I unwound all the lines, unhooked it all, and re-ran everything inside my house (that was fun). Hopefully that works, otherwise I'll be looking for a kite with more punch than a beginner one.

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Alright so as I was going over my session in my head, I realized I had the 5th line (safety/collapse line) wrapped around the outside control line and that there was actually some tension on it. If there was tension on it, this was probably the cause of my problems. I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be completely slack when flying the kite.

 

Crappy photo, but you can kind of see the wrap in the left side control line.

 

post-29761-0-61615300-1456143207_thumb.jpg

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Yeah that won't help. Also pull the red ball on the trim until it's all the way in and cleat if off if your kite is stalling. When it's really light you need to be sheeting out a lot or you'll stall the kite. It's a foil quirk and counter intuitive when you're learning.

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Yeah that won't help. Also pull the red ball on the trim until it's all the way in and cleat if off if your kite is stalling. When it's really light you need to be sheeting out a lot or you'll stall the kite. It's a foil quirk and counter intuitive when you're learning.

 

Yeah I'll try pulling in on the "depower" trim next time. I read something about if you're pulling down on the bar and back stalling, that the trim can help balance that out. Can't wait to get out of work and try again, even though it isn't even blowing 5kts today... I'm assuming this thing will really come alive in 10+. Can't wait to get comfortable enough to add something with more pull/response/lift.

 

Also realized I didn't even have the correct knot from the control lines to the bridle... jesus I'm surprised the thing even flew :D

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In light stuff it's easy to have a kite backstall, and running around with the sheet all the way out isn't a foil-specific thing, all kites do it. Make sure everything is run nicely and with no twists is a good start, then "depowering" the kite to some extent will help, you're lowering the angle of attack which kinda lowers the stall speed (my knowledge of aerodynamics in this area is a bit fuzzy, but it's something like that).

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In light stuff it's easy to have a kite backstall, and running around with the sheet all the way out isn't a foil-specific thing, all kites do it. Make sure everything is run nicely and with no twists is a good start, then "depowering" the kite to some extent will help, you're lowering the angle of attack which kinda lowers the stall speed (my knowledge of aerodynamics in this area is a bit fuzzy, but it's something like that).

 

Sounds reasonable thanks.

 

Not enough wind to fly today, at least not for me to get in the air by myself. I ran everything again and got another twist out of the lines. Will try again tomorrow!

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Went at it again today. Still pretty light winds, but a couple of "gusts" got me cruising pretty good. As the wind and my speed increased, the depower bar actually started to work, and I could hold full power and feel the pull increase, pretty cool. I fell on my ass during a turn and managed to stall the kite and it tangled itself before I could regain control. Had to unhook from the harness and get out of my skis to get it sorted out again. The hardest thing so far has been launching by myself in light air, other than fun shit. Can't wait to get better and get out in a little more breeze, speed is addicting.

 

Here are a couple of vids from today. Sorry for the wind noise and vertical video, cell phones aren't the greatest...

 

 

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If you feel like your kite is a little too stally, double check that your bar is tuned correctly. Front lines stretch a lot under load and when they do the kite won't fly correctly...there are some great youtube videos about this and some brands include easy adjusters to tune line length. If you purchased used gear this is even more important.

 

Light wind kiting requires all your gear to be totally dialed in so it behaves properly.

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If you feel like your kite is a little too stally, double check that your bar is tuned correctly. Front lines stretch a lot under load and when they do the kite won't fly correctly...there are some great youtube videos about this and some brands include easy adjusters to tune line length. If you purchased used gear this is even more important.

 

Light wind kiting requires all your gear to be totally dialed in so it behaves properly.

 

I pretty much got it figured out and had some great sessions at the end of the season. Basically I was attempting to learn to kite in winds that were far too light. Most of my sessions were in the 4-6kt wind range lol. I was able to get a feel for bar and trim control when the wind picked up to 10kts and above.

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