Kite Skiing

Kevin Casper
Kite in the mountains

Kite skiing is a type of skiing that has been growing in popularity. Unlike other types of skiing (water, downhill, cross-country, etc.), the propulsion in kite skiing doesn't come from a motorboat, gravity, or physical exertion, but rather from the wind. The skier can be on water skis, snow skis, or even skis designed for sand or grass. In any case, the skier holds onto a kite that catches the wind and pulls him or her along.

Skiing With a Traction Kite

The real beauty of kite skiing as compared to downhill skiing is that you don't need to buy an expensive lift ticket to have a good time. You basically just need an open area, some skis, and a kite.

Materials Needed for Kite Skiing

Specifically, the following materials are essential for kite skiing in the snow:

  1. A traction kite with the appropriate lines. There are many types of kites that will work for this activity including most land and water kites and even inflatable kites. Check out Ocean Extreme Sports and Power Kites Direct for good selections of traction kites. Different kites are appropriate for different wind speeds, so depending on how into kite skiing you get, you might end up with a handful of kites tailor made for every kind of wind condition you find yourself in.
  2. Downhill skis. The ski philosophy for kite skiing is similar to the ski philosophy for downhill skiing. The longer the skis, the faster you will go, the better you'll be in deep snow, and the harder you will find turning and maneuvering. Skis that are on the shorter side are easier to control and are typically better in icier conditions.
  3. A helmet and appropriate padding. No matter how good you are at kite skiing, you will definitely take some hard spills. A helmet is essential, and elbow and knee pads should also be considered.
  4. A harness to attach yourself to the kite. Any kitesurfing or windsurfing harness will work fine.
  5. Decent ski boots. Remember, your feet and hands often get cold first, so the better your boots are, the more comfortable you'll be out in the snow.
  6. Warm clothes.
  7. Good gloves or mittens.

Choosing a Good Location

If you have access to a frozen lake, this is probably the best place to experience all that kite skiing has to offer. The terrain is flat and smooth, the wind is unobstructed, and there are no trees or other obstacles to crash into. The most important thing to do is make sure the lake is well-frozen before venturing out. There's no way to ruin a nice day in the snow quicker than to have someone fall through the ice. A four inch thickness is a rule of thumb for making sure the ice is safe, so dig a hole in the ice with an axe and measure the depth of the freeze before you venture too far out.

If a lake isn't available, an empty, level field with a good layer of snow could also be used. Just make sure there aren't too many things to crash into in the area, and be on the look out for power lines!

Kite Skiing Technique

Flying a traction kite is something that requires a little bit of practice and some technical know-how to operate the equipment. In theory, the technique is essentially like flying a kite in the park; you get the kite up in the air and let the wind do the work from there. The only difference is that the control system on a traction kite is a bit more complicated than a regular kite, because you will be pulled behind the kite on skis!

Prepare Before You Try This Sport

Before you endeavor to try this for yourself, consider doing some in-depth research. Check out the excellent article on kite piloting at the kite surfing school. This site has videos and other links that will answer all the questions that pop up as you learn the ropes to this great and exciting sport.

Kite Skiing