Snowkiting: Why you should go for a session in the snow

If you live in a country in which you don’t have summer the whole year long, kitesurfing might get difficult during wintertime – at least if you want to go on the water. But who cares – as long as there’s snow! Snowkiting is a proper alternative for those who want to pursue their passion in ice and snow too.

Snowkite pro Eliska Parma shares her knowledge with Kitejoy – she gives a summary of the most important snowkite facts and tells us how to stay safe and secure (not only as a snowkite-beginner), in which conditions it’s better to let it be, which tricks to practice when, and much more.  In the following you’ll find an overview of the most important snowkite schools in Austria and and a short biography about Eliska.

Snowkiting in Obertauern/Austria

Snow is falling – and Austria’s hills, fields and mountains are getting white. Yeah, we didn’t have so much snow the past seasons! So it’s time to unpack the kite stuff again!

Good news: You don’t need special equipment for snowkiting. Of course specific snowkites (foilkites) offer advantages over tubekites in matters of handling, and in alpine terrain they are nearly a must. But for non-alpine terrain tubekites are well-suited too. One should only pay attention to the surface – when the kite crashes on ice and snow the material may rather be damaged. The same applies to kiters in the snow: A back protector and a helmet are indispensable for this sport! 

Eliska doing the setup. In non-alpine terrain tubekites are well-suited für snowkiting.

If you choose skis or a snowboard for snowkiting is a matter of taste. The best way is to take the material you are used to on the slopes. Skiers offer the advantage to be more mobile and that you can skate if needed. Snowboarder may have the same problem as on the slopes – so they have to sit in the snow sometimes. Those who go for a snowboard should mount their bindings in comfortable “duck stance” as snowkiters want to ride into both directions.

Chill-The-Hill snowkite event  in Obertauern/Austria

Ok, the equipment is packed – so let’s go to to the spot … but attention: Even if you found a windy, snowcapped area without obstacles (like trees or power lines) it’s absolutely necessary to ask the property owner for a permission to go snowkiting there.  Why? Among other reasons, ski- and snowboard-edges may cause crop-damage. It’s always important to adapt to prevalent conditions and treat nature with respect.

There are official snowkite spots and snowkite schools where snowkiting is allowed (they will be mentioned later). In ski resorts snowkiting is generally forbidden. Skiers and snowboarders always have the right of way, so if a skiing resort offers space for snowkiters you are only allowed to use the official snowkite area.

If one is experienced enough for alpine terrain there’s nothing better than let your kite pull you up to the peak where no lift or cable car is going. But for this you’ll not only need specific safety equipment (avalanche backback, airbag etc.) but also alpine experience and particular knowledge about weather in the mountains.

Chill-The-Hill snowkite challenge in Obertauern/Austria (c) Rudi Dellinger

 Essential questions about snowkiting

Is it necessary to be able to ski or snowboard before I go snowkiting?

No, it’s like in kitesurfing – everybody can learn the sport. Of course certain previous knowledge isn’t bad, as it’s good for balance and safety – and if you already know how to ski or snowboard, you can focus your attention to the kite.


Which points are most important to pay attention on (especially for snowkite greenhorns)?
  • A spot suitable for beginners: Obstacles like trees, power poles and power lines and busy roads should be no-gos for beginners.
  • The right size of the kite: As snowkiters have a solid ground under their feet it’s usually enough to take one size smaller than on the water. There is no current on the snow and going upwind is easier.
  • Constant weather conditions: Especially west winds can be uncomfortable and gusty in the alps.
  • Rights of way: In the meantime snowkiting became quite popular. So to avoid trouble with others you should respect the same rights of way as you would do it on the water.
Eliska snowkiting at the Berninapass/Switzerland

For those who already know how to ride – which tricks are the first ones to practice?

Experienced kitesurfers will quickly reach the same level on the snow as they are used from the water. You should start with your basics – hooked-in-tricks and rotations are as easy as they are on the water. After getting used to the harder ground you can try unhooked tricks too. A surface pass on the snow is quite easy to train. As park-style is well-suited for the snow it’s also a good option to build a kicker as support for the tricks. Using sliders and kickers is big fun in the snow!

As mentioned before, specific safety equipment is a must, especially for freestyle-snowkiting – at least you have to use a helmet and back protector.

Chill-The-Hill snowkite event 2015 in Obertauern/Austria

Which (weather) conditions are not suited for snowkiting?
  • Storm and thunderstorm warning: Stormy conditions can quickly get uncomfortable and dangerous. One should respect the prevalent weather and land your kite in time before the thunderstorm arrives (maybe with ice pellets).
  • Strong wind in alpine terrain: Very often wind from the west in the mountains comes with strong gusts. In such cases foilkites are the better choice as they are easy to land on one’s own even when the wind is strong.
  • Reduced visibility: Driving snow and fog may increase the risk for accidents and injury as one can’t properly recognize the ground as well as obstacles. Beneath that you might easily loose orientation if everything is white.
  • Avalanche danger: No question – no matter, which outdoor sports you do during wintertime, always take care of avalanches. As no one wants to get himself or others in danger it’s important to professionally assess the prevalent conditions.
  • Ice: Snowkiting on frozen lakes is quite popular – and with a lot of snow on the surface such lakes are perfect freestyle spots. It’s essential though to inform about and estimate the condition and thickness of the ice before any session. Sometimes the ice is simply too thin.
Chill-The-Hill snowkite challenge 2015, Obertauern/Austria (c) sportimage.at

What’s the best snowkite spot you’ve seen so far?

For me the Berninapass in Switzerland is a snowkite paradise. Awesome alpine terrain and a small, frozen lake offer great areas for freeriding and freestyle. If one needs a perfect guide for this region – no matter if you’re a beginner or advanced snowkiter – I would recommend the local snowkite school bigdayz.com.

Snowkiting in Switzerland/Berninapass

Also the Reschenpass  in the tyrolean alps is super nice for snowkiters and offers a ski resort for no-wind-days too.

http://bigdayz.com/kite-snowkiten-de.html

Snowkite schools in Austria:

http://www.snowkite-achensee.com
http://www.kiteschule-skywalker.de/loferer-alm.html
http://snowkitekurse.at
http://www.hangon-kiteboarding.com


Here you find the most important facts about Eliska Parma:

Bio:

As a passionate kitesurfer but also student I had to spend my first kite winters in Austria … so snowkiting was definitely the best alternative to push my level also during the winter. Austria offers perfect conditions to practice kitesurfing the whole year long. Some tricks are even easier to learn in the snow. Especially the relaunch of the kite is much easier on snow, and so you can train your tricks until you master them.

As I was super fascinated by kiting I worked as a kitesurf and snowkite teacher after I finished university. So I could afford my travels to foreign and windy destinations. After lots of flight hours, some unforgettable travel adventures and culture shocks I started to take part in kite races on the water as well as on the snow. With increasing age and after some knee injuries I am still totally into the kite fever and currently dedicate myself to beautiful weather and freeriding 😉

Eliska doing the setup in the snow

Ridersprofile & Competition Results:

http://www.jn-kites.com/rider/eliska-parma

Competition Results:

1st Race, International Snowkite Open, Reschensee, Italy 2015
1st Kitetracker Speed-Contest, International Snowkite Open, Reschensee, Italy 2015
1st Long Distance Race, International Snowkite Open, Reschensee, Italy 2015
1st Race, Ozone Snowkitemasters, Switzerland 2015
1st Race, Swiss Snowkitetour, Stop Silvaplana, Switzerland 2015
5th overall PKRA Slalom 2014
6th PKRA Slalom, Fuerteventura, Spain 2014
6th PKRA Slalom, Podersdorf, Austria 2014
1st Freestyle, Bernina Challenge, Bernina Pass, Switzerland 2014
1st Race, Swiss Snowkitetour, Stop Silvaplana, Switzerland 2014
1st Race, Open Italian Snowkite- Championships, Class Europe, Reschensee, Italy 2014
1st Race, Austrian Championships, Podersdorf, Austria 2013
2nd Race, International Snowkite Championship, Reschensee, Italy 2013
1st Race, Swiss Snowkitetour, Stop Silvaplana, Switzerland 2012

Eliska at the Silvaplana-Snowkitetour in Switzerland

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