I have inadvertently stumbled into a new (to me) mode of winter transportation. Over the past couple of months, in unexpected backcountry locations, I have met skiers who harness the power of the wind to travel across snow. By combining skis or a board with a kite, snowkiters as they are known, scoot across frozen lakes, up mountainsides and hop over obstacles. At the cutting edge of the sport, long distances are covered to cross continents or reach distant mountain summits, and at the extreme fringe, snowkiters catch big air off cliffs. My brief observations have evolved quickly into a keen interest in the sport. Inseparable as I am from my skis, learning to harness the wind as a compliment to my favorite outdoor activity will expand the horizons of my outdoor world. And I want in. So when local snow kiting expert, Dave Grossman, offered to show me the ropes, or lines in this case, and teach me the basics of kiting, I jumped at the chance.
First stop, the wide open spaces of Canyon View Park on a gloriously sunny and barely breezy afternoon. As we unpacked the kite I had visions of being drug onto and tangled up on I70. Dave quelled my fears and reassured me the kite was but a small three meter trainer and I would soon have everything under control. He was right. With a big grin plastered across my face and after an hour of his tutelage I had learned in a fashion how to launch, fly and crash the kite.
Despite its small span, it was amazing how much power was under the canopy when the wind picked up. Even with a light breeze I found myself lifted off the ground and towed pretty hard. Fortunately the kite had a brake and could be stopped quickly before I rocketed into the fence at the east end of the park.
Looking beyond my kite, the snow covered Grand Mesa beckoned, a perfect location for snow kiting. With a little more practice I soon hope to be up there combining my skis with the wind to launch me into a whole new world. All photos: Dave Grossman