Snow kiting is the sport of flying a kite with your skis or snowboard on. Kiting on snow is the winter version of kiteboarding on water. The principles of using the kite are the same, but in very different terrain and temperatures. All you need is a moderate breeze to get towed around frozen lakes covered with snow and up powdery mountain slopes to get runs coming down. Itâ€™s just like having your own private ski lift to get run after run. Many say it feels a bit like wake-boarding or water-skiing when holding on to the bar and feeling the pull. Having a good understanding of the wind or some sailing experience will help to pick it up quickly. But anyone from the ages of 8 to 80 can do this sport with a few lessons on safety and putting in some practice.
Snow kiting has been around for over 50 years but with new technology in kites over the past 10 years it is becoming more popular than ever. Locations often associated with skiing and snowboarding such as Russia, Canada, Iceland, France, Switzerland, Austria, Norway and Sweden and in North America all have a booming snow kite scene.
Jennie Milton offers snow kiting tours.
Kiters were first spotted around Valdez in the late 90â€™s but in the early 2000's keen snow kiters from around the world discovered that Thompson Pass just 30 miles from town was a world class location for the sport they loved. There are numerous lakes and frozen rivers to choose from in different wind directions including Odyssey and Blueberry lake, Lowe river and the Glacier stream are all good spots to learn if the surface is soft. But if you're ready, the best thing about snow kiting in Thompson Pass is a combination of wind angle to slope aspect. The wind rushes through the pass allowing kiters to ride up the steep mountain slopes. Sometimes ending up on the summit where normally a helicopter would take you. Mountain winds tend to be gusty and unpredictable but the topography of the pass creates a relatively clean wind flow to work with in both a North and South direction.
The Wind for snow kiting ranges from12mph up to 45mph. Blue skies are always epic sessions but snow kiting during the storm can be exhilarating. Frontal pressure always brings plenty of wind before the storm and my favorite is kiting the fresh snow as the storm passes.
The best months for snow kiting in Valdez are February to May. During this time Jennie Milton a champion kiter on both water and snow, is running lessons and tours. Jen is from Australia and has been skiing big mountains and snow kiting around Valdez for over 17 years and would love to share her passion and safety tips with you. (Contact Jen at adrenajen.com)
During April the annual Alaska snow kite festival is on. This is a spectacular time to visit Valdez and Thompson Pass. Kiters flock into town and the mountains are covered with brightly colored kites. Para-gliders are flying high above like eagles, and speed flyers are playing tricks with gravity. Wind or no wind there is always something exciting going on! The kite festival is the perfect time to have a go and learn from some of the experts in the sport.
Get a lesson if you are a beginner is the best advise and if youâ€™re already a snow kiter then take a tour to get familiar with the different zones that work best. If you already love to ski or snowboard and love being outdoors in the weather, then snow kiting is something to put on the bucket list of things to do when you visit Valdez.