Kite skiing or snowkiting as it is also known is, is a form of skiing in which you are attached to a kite and ski down the mountain, or straight off a cliff if you’re experienced enough! The kite allows the skier to get big air off jumps, and enables the skier to ski in areas of the mountain that would otherwise be inaccessible.
What is Kite Skiing?
The best way to describe kite skiing is that it is a happy combination of alpine skiing & kite surfing. Although kite skiing normally uses exactly the same skis as alpine skiing, it can't really be said that that it is a directly transferable skill! Yes, knowing how to turn on skis, slow down & control your speed will all come in very useful, arguably most of the transferable skills for kite skiing come from being able to kite surf well! Having said this, if you are an experienced kite surfer, kite skiing will probably feel like a bit of an easier sport for you. Obviously there is no way to kite ski into the wind, the only way this sport works is by kite skiing with the direction of the wind, using a kite normally attached 25m up into the air.
This special type of skiing is very similar to the sport kitesurfing, in that the skier is using the wind to help guide their course and enable to get lift off jumps or drops. It is also used to pick up more speed if the winds are blowing in the right direction. Originally foil kites were used for kite skiing back when it first started to gain popularity in the late 20th Century, however as the sport has developed, inflatable kites have gradually become the more popular type of kite for kite skiing.
As kite skiing has gained popularity with adrenaline seekers, it has also been turned into a competitive sport, with Red Bull Ragnarok being the most famous competition. For kite skiing racing, foil kites tend to be more commonly used since 2013. As is the case with all extreme sports, Kite skiing is very dangerous if it's not done properly, and can be very dangerous even if it is done properly, especially when you are kite skiing in the mountains, with the danger of crashing into cliffs or trees.
Interestingly, although Europeans invested skiing thousands and thousands of years ago - before it was then introduced to America, it was actually Americans who came up with the idea of kite skiing in the 1980’s. This is however where the baton was passed over to Europe to make it popular and into the extreme sport people know it as today. Maybe not surprisingly, it was the kit surfers out there who had all the experience of using kites in sports, who jumped on this idea of using kites for skiing as well, and helped to gain momentum in Europe.
Where can you Kite Ski?
One of the joys of kite skiing is that you can practically do it wherever there is snow! You don’t a mountain like you would do for alpine skiing, although it is perfectly possible to kite ski down or up a mountain, you can easily kite ski across a snowy plain or even across a frozen lake (please make sure this lake is very frozen before you attempt this)! All you need is wind, snow/ ice and a kite.
There are some very exciting and beautiful place to kite ski around the world, a few examples of which are some of the large lakes around the USA such as Lake Winnipesaukee or Lake Minnetonka, or if you want to venture a bit further north towards the arctic circle (which is always a good should when you are looking for snow and ice-covered landscapes), Bagley Icefield is another perfect location for trying out kite skiing in Alaska. There are also plenty of options and opportunities to try out kite skiing in Europe such as in Scandanavia and even in ski resorts in central Europe. Generally speaking, if you are interested in kite skiing across the flat, you will need to find somewhere super cold and super remote. This is why the further north you go and the further towards the arctic circle you find yourself, the more opportunities for kite skiing you will find yourself with.
Kite Skiing on Ice
It is entirely possible to kite ski across icy landscapes as well as snowy ones. An example of this may be the numerous expeditions across the Greenland ice caps by kite skiers. Kite skiing allows you to cover huge distances on skis with relatively little effort compared to hiking, as you are using the great natural power of the wind to travel. This is not to say the sport isnt difficult and dangerous, and injuries done happen, but it is certainly a very efficient way of covering large distances in cold and artic landscapes.
Kite Skiing Clothing
Needless to say, if you are going kite skiing anywhere in the world, but especially up near the arctic circle, you are going to need very warm clothing. Warm, thick gloves are essential due to having your hands up above your head at all times when kite skiing, as you will need to control the kite. As opposed to cross-country skiing where there is a lot of movement of your legs, core and arms, kite skiing is not as much of a full body work out (a great work out for your arms and upper body mind you!), and therefore your body will not produce as much heat or keep you as warm throughout the day. For this reason, you will need to layer up with breathable clothing such as base layers (see base layers for skiing), and make sure you bring plenty of extra layers with you in case you get cold. The other ESSENTIAL piece of equipment you will need to bring with you, as is the sae for any type of skiing, is a good helmet. This will protect you in case you fall or if you get thrown around by the wind while you are kite skiing. It will also keep your head surprisingly warm under there!