Editor's note: This is the fourth and final installment
of January's Learn to Ski and Ride Month series.
When I consider the options for entertainment in winter, I typically think of the ski resorts.
And when on-snow entertainment isn't quite satisfying, maybe I turn to soaking - if I want to drive an hour or two to find hot springs.
I admit, I'm letting my snow snob instincts kick in right now, but sometimes, I'm simply not drawn to the hard-pack. Don't get me wrong, fast groomers are fun. But I'm like a gnome - I like the trees.
Where can I go when the trees aren't quite skiable? Where can I go when the wind is whipping and I'm not so sure I want to scoot my skis around a mountain?
Well, this January, I turned to snowkiting as a possible option.
If you've driven to Breckenridge lately, you've passed by Farmer's Korner, which is often the site of Anton Rainold's Colorado Kiteforce snowkite lessons. You'll see massive kites in the air and probably wonder what's going on.
I can start by saying that even the introductory session - the one where your snowboots stay on and all you're doing is figuring out how to fly the kite - is fun. Rainold designs that portion of the course to get his students familiar with the way the kite works, including how to turn it, how it feels when it accelerates through the "wind window" and what to do when the kite's about to crash (amazingly, all you do is let go! The kite system does the rest, allowing the kite to flutter to the ground in a surprisingly calm manner).
The wind died before I could advance to the larger kite and, eventually, see what happens when I put skis on, but Rainold and I agreed that for those looking for an alternative to the slopes, it can be fun to just get out in an open space and get to know the basics of snowkiting.
While we waited for the wind to pick up again, we chatted about how snowkiting can fit so many needs and desires. Like the family who has varying ability levels. Perhaps the kids are still in ski school but mom and dad want to ski harder runs. That can split the family up, but a snowkiting lesson can put everyone in the same place, doing different things. Often, Rainold said, kids end up having so much fun that their parents stop what they're doing to watch and take pictures.
Even beginners can try snowkiting, because it can be tamer than what we see on YouTube. Rainold gives a lesson on the basics of using ski and snowboard edges, and then lets the wind do the rest. A beginner can harness in, catch the wind, and drift downwind before letting go and hiking back to do it again. The way the kite works, the beginner isn't threatened by it taking off and dragging them across the snow, uncontrolled.
I wish I'd been able to see what it's like to snowkite on skis. Being an advanced, curious and adventurous skier on the mountain, I'm intrigued to know what it's like to catch the wind - and catch air - and cruise across a lake or use a kite to maneuver the backcountry. Though, I knew that wasn't going to happen on my first day out.
Still, snowkiting hasn't lost its luster for me. I'm still intrigued, and one day, maybe I'll give it another shot. Until then, it's off to take advantage of any number of other Summit County activities - including learning to telemark ski or snowboard - before the snow and chill depart.