Below is an article from a few years back. Most of it still holds true.
Also check, Kitesnowboard.net, kitesnowboard.com, and Realkiteboarding.com
Go for the Snow !
By Trip Forman
What kind of wetsuit suit boots do you use in the winter ? What kind of drysuit ? How do you deal with your wake bindings feeling like stiff bricks when the temperature through the floor ? One word answers all of these questions...SNOW. Last year, as soon as the weather went down the toilet, I headed north. First to Buffalo to score
some early season lake effect powder. Then we headed to Michigan for a Christmas week bender on the Michigan Autobahn. Finally, to snow buried New England for February and March where we scored some of the biggest dumps in recorded history.
I didn’t buy one lift ticket last year. I sent my friends off to go Heli-riding without me. They thought I was crazy. How crazy is riding with just your friends and scoring uncrowded, fresh snow every session ? How crazy is seeing knee deep untracked powder to the horizon in EVERY direction, knowing it’s all yours and it won’t ever get tracked up before you leave. How crazy is spending $15 on lunch for four people ?
I’m all set with lift tickets. Going off kickers in the park is gonna feel like I’ve got a cinder block in my pants after riding a kite all winter. I guess the mountains are good for no wind days.....but then again I think we’ll be building our kite park on those days with a snow plow and a couple of shovels.
Here are a few quick tips from what we learned last winter :
Pick the right place: This is the number one most important thing about
kiteboarding in the snow. You have to find a wide open space with steady breeze and good snow cover. Don’t go for the 3PM golf course session at the bottom of your riding mountain. You’ll end up getting worked and hating the sport. Would you go water riding in a lake on a golf course ? No. Take the time to find the right spot. Get away from the mountains because they make the wind gusty. Keep your eyes open on the way to the mountain for wide open spaces with steady breeze. Big frozen lakes with good snow cover are also good. Again, picking the right place is the number one rule.
Dress for success : Think about what you’d wear to go on a long run in the winter and you start to get the idea. Don’t wear what you’d wear on the mountain. When you’re kiteboarding, you’re always working and your body stays a lot warmer. For most of last year, all I wore was a thermal long sleeve shirt and a shell jacket, thin
gloves and a thin hat. That worked all the way to single digits Fahrenheit. The first couple of days, we dressed like we were going to the mountain and we ended up sweating ourselves into a pool. Because of all the sweat, wear clothes that wick the moisture away. Cotton won’t do this and will end up soaked and you’ll freeze. Some people wear pads under their clothes for hard landings. These would include knee pads (plastic capped), hockey style pants with butt pads, wrist guards and helmets.We wore them all in the beginning (because we, probably like you, thought we were
going to kill ourselves). We did “grow out” of using them after realizing that the kite softens every landing and makes even the worst wipeouts a cakewalk compared to riding on a mountain. Using a helmet, regardless of your ability, is never a bad idea.
Eye-yay-yay : You’ll need sunglasses or goggles to keep the wind out of your eyes.
Otherwise you’ll be crying like a baby. Goggles are better because they stay dry when you take gas.
Choose your board : Any snowboard or skis will work. If you have a choice, go with a snowboard that’s wide so you can go duck stance with no heel drag. You have to go duck because you’ll be riding fakie half the time. I rode duck 12 degree angles front and back. Try and get your bindings centered over the length of the board. This is difficult with a lot of the newer boards because their inserts are centered an inch or more aft of center. If so, slide your bindings all the way forward on their adjustments to get as close as possible to the center of the board. To check if you are close, find the center point of the board and mark it. Then find the center point of your bindings, then mark it. The two should be as close as possible. Snowboards have an advantage over skis because you can square off against the kite for more power. If you’ve never used a snowboard and are a die hard expert skier then you’ll probably feel more comfortable on those (unless you’re riding a wake or twin on the water
Tune and Wax : Tune and wax your board to perfection. Kiteboarding on snow is all about edging and speed. The sharper your edge, the faster you’ll go and the more kite you can hold on hard pack. The smoother and better waxed your base is, the faster you’ll go on flat snow. This translates to bigger airs once you start to jump. Good and bad sessions are many times directly related to the tune job on your board. Get a tuning kit, cheap used iron and wax and learn how to do it yourself. It makes a huge difference.
Boots and bindings : Two strap freestyle bindings work well but step ins are more
convenient for launching, re-launching, and landing the kite. Go with the softest/lightest boots you can find because you don’t need as much support and the comfort/weight will be a huge advantage for all the walking you’ll be doing.
What kites to bring : Bring them all including the big ones. We screwed ourselves on the first trip by thinking we’d be using only small kites. We left all the big ones at home. Big mistake. Don’t be fooled into thinking winter is all windy days. You’d be urprised how many light days there are once you start following the weather.
What size to rig : Rig smaller than what you would take on the water for the first several sessions. After you feel comfortable riding on your snowboard or skis, you can go as big as you dare. By the end of last year we were holding close to as much as we can on the water.
Blimps ? : Blimps work on the snow but some people complain about the valves leaking due to cold temps. Others swear by them b/c of sheeting ability and extreme jumping (and claim to never have had bladder/valve problems). Re-launching them can be a problem because there’s no friction on the snow to get them to flip over.
Reverse bridals can cure this problem. Also, sticking aggressive male sided velcro or hard foam squares on the center of the leading edge will give the snow something to “catch” on to flip your helmet over. If you already have a quiver, go out there and use them. Your knowledge of how they work and your comfort behind the bar will translate to instant fun your first days on the snow.
Foils : Foils have an advantage in that you don’t have to stand in the cold and pump them up. They also pack a lot smaller. Their disadvantages include more technical rigging and tuning, and the fact that most people can’t ride two line style to edge them out of the window. They are easier to re-launch than blimps if they’re equipped
with third line re-launch.
Bars or handles ? : Once and for all, handles are dead. There’s a group of Euro riders claiming handles are the best for snow because they allow better maneuvering of the kite and also allow you to back it down. Needless to say, this is the same group who preached them for the water and who now are riding skis and doing bent leg spread eagles and double daffys. Riding snow will become just as technically board trick related as riding water. Therefore you want a bar for your kite so you can just “forget about” the kite and concentrate on your riding. Handles are nice for doing kite tricks with your ballet skis.
Terrain : Terrain like small rolls and banks in the land are really cool for riding once you’ve got it wired. It will basically change your snow kiting session into a Playstation Tony Hawk skateboard session. Rolls and banks are transformed into huge gap jumps, * pipes and breaking ocean waves.
Private Land : Some of the best riding out there will be on private land. Make sure
and check with the owner before poaching it. Last year, almost everyone we asked said yes, plus many of them came out to watch and take pictures. One even brought us lunch ! (What would you expect ? They’re bored out of their minds until the snow melts and the farming begins)
Buried Obstacles : All of the riding you’ll be doing is in an uncontrolled environment. This means that there are no ski patrol guys groomin the land, removing buried obstacles, etc. Keep an open eye for buried tree stumps, fences, rocks etc. What looks like a fun lump in the snow to jump off of could very well be a tree stump that could end your season. We never had any problems last year, but then again the guys I rode with were also pretty careful about checking out the terrain before they launched it.
Learning on snow : Learning to kiteboard is far easier on flat snow than on water
End of Session Productions
LAKAWA, Founder Emeritus
Sponsored by Slingshot Kiteboarding