What do you do when it is four below zero, the wind is blowing at 16 miles an hour and the wind chill is about twenty-five below. Well, if you are from the South you probably think the Mayans were just a little off on their dates and the end is here now. But if you live in western ND you head out to the lake to play in the snow. And that is just what this nodaker did this afternoon.
Mother nature hasn’t been good to snow kiters the last two winters. She has been stingy with the snow cover and the winds never seem to be right. A winter storm promising ten inches of snow was what the weather man was spewing all week. But those guys were wrong as usual. Instead, we here in the middle of the state were left with another sunny, cold Saturday afternoon. Those of us who grew up in the frozen north know the perfect days for anything are limited and if you wait for those you won’t be doing anything but waiting. So making lemonade out of frozen lemons, I decided to head out into the cold and get some snow kiting done.
I couldn’t convince anyone to join me in the sport but I did have a friend come out to watch and loan me his GoPro which you will see some of once I get the footage. While getting rigged up my hands got a little cold but after that I was actually sweating by the time I was done. You collect some pretty good cold weather gear after four decades in the tundra.
Anyway, the wind was WNW averaging 16 when I started and gusting over 20. One of the things I like about the setting up on a frozen lake is that I can use my ice screw. A fellow kiteboarding buddy sold me on of his extras and I love these things. Sure there are ways of securing your kite when not being used on land but I haven’t found anything as nice as these screws. They go in and out of the ice very easy. They are as secure as if they were in concrete. Getting back to the story, I ran my lines downwind of the ice screw and locked in my leash to the loop on the screw. This will keep the kite depowered once I hook it up. Then I got my kite ready. I inflated the struts in the warmth of my basement and partially inflated my main bladder there as well. I do this so I don’t have to spend the time pumping in the cold – that is when your fingers start to freeze. So I didn’t have to spend much time blowing up the kite. Next I connected the kite with the nose facing the wind. This is a little more difficult when you don’t have it anchored like I do in this case. The important thing to think about when the kite is facing the bar is that you don’t get your outside lines up on the side of the kite. They should end up underneath the kite and not tangled with your inside lines. Then I went back to the ice screw, picked up my bar and steered the kite over to the edge of the wind window and set it down to rest while I finished getting ready. This is another nice thing about the ice screw. If something were wrong with my lines I am not really at any risk by testing it attached to the screw. Sure, if something went wrong with the leash I could lose the kite completely but I am not in any way attached to the kite yet. This way, if something is wrong with the lines and the kite goes crazy, I am safe and can just let go of the kite. Then I can walk down to it and fix the situation.
Ok, so I am geared up and ready to go. I just loop in to my harness and attach the leash when the moment is right. Don’t mess this up or your kite is leaving without you. The snow was crusty on top from thirty mile an hour winds the day before. There was about four inches of snow covering most of the ice with much more near the leeward edges of the dry land. A few bare spots of ice existed but they were small and created no issues. Once or twice that crusty snow grabbed my skis and pulled me over but it wasn’t bad. The sun was out and the wind was a nice speed for the day. I had a good time working on fluid turns, jumping and just going fast down wind. Of course, that means going upwind later and that was a chore today. I finally got the feel of jumping without turning. I could only get it going one direction and I can’t really describe the feeling. I just played with it until I could feel and identify the right time when the kite was powered enough to pull it off. Once I could feel it, I would apply a little extra pressure under foot and pull back on the bar. Then get ready for the ride. I was taking it easy since there wasn’t a lot of snow in some spots so I can’t say I got any huge air but I had fun and got a little better at it.
Well, that is it for today.
- Don’t be afraid of cold temps. You will be working enough to stay warm.
- Get as much of your set up done indoors as you can.
- Get an ice screw if you are going to be on the frozen water.
- Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com/user/thekitend