Snowkiters tap into Mother Nature’s hair dryer
In communities like Summit County, certain people are always searching for new venues to test the limits of their body using something provided by Mother Nature. Some choose a raft or kayak to compete with thousands of pounds of pressure caused by a river rushing through a valley. Others strap boards to their feet and let gravity take over in an attempt to descend steep mountain pitches as aggressively as possible.A new Man vs. Mother Nature battle has arrived in Summit, and this time the always inferior human is up against one of her strongest weapons – wind.It’s called snowkiting, kite boarding or kite skiing, and on a daily basis, if the wind has shown up to play, large colorful kites can be seen flying above a frozen Dillon Reservoir with skiers or snowboarders attached below, seemingly in control.”You’re mastering the wind,” said Anton Rainold, co-owner of Colorado KiteForce in Frisco, the first snowkite-specific store in the state. Snowkiting has evolved from kite surfing, a sport about 15 years old in which participants use the same kites, but utilize a board similar to a wakeboard to ride across bodies of water.Snowkiting also originated from a more utilitarian practice. For hundreds of years, people used kites to pull sleds across expansive, snowy tundras. Modern technology has replaced any need for kites as transportation, but the power of wind will always be available for those in search of a breeze-induced tug.Colorado KiteForce sells everything a snowkiter would need, and offers lessons for those just getting started. A full-day lesson costs $200, including the kite rental. Rainold said it usually only takes a day to be comfortable skiing or snowboarding by kite, so after the first lesson most snowkiters are ready to buy or rent a kite to try on their own.A new snowkite can cost anywhere from $500 to $1500. Colorado KiteForce rents kites for $99 per day or $30 an hour. The kites range in size from one- to three-meter training kites, to those 10 meters long. The kites have lines that attach to a handle bar used for control. The handle bar can attach to a waist-belt harness that helps handle the kite.Due to the ease of gliding through snow, snowkiting only requires 5 mph winds, but it also can be enjoyed in winds exceeding 40 mph.Rainold expects the sport to gain popularity based on safety issues the kite manufacturers have addressed.”The biggest change that’s been made is safety,” Rainold said. “In the last couple of years, the kites have really been refined to make them safer for the average user. A few years ago, it was really an extreme sport. You didn’t have all of the safety releases and depowering systems for the kites. Now, they’re much more user friendly.”Many of the snowkiters seen on Dillon Reservoir come from outside the county. Saturday, Boulder resident Kevin Passmore made the trek to Summit with his kite and skis in case the Presidents’ Day crowd was slowing up the lift lines. “We couldn’t even get in the parking lot at Keystone, so we came here,” Passmore said before pulling his kite out of his bag.Passmore has been snowkiting for a year and a half, and believes he’s on the front end of a new trend in extreme sports.”It’s going to get big pretty fast,” Passmore said. “It’s just something different, and it’s fun.”Snowkiters are popping up anywhere there is snow and open space. Many of them are attracted to the simplicity of the sport.”I’ll be flying along with so much going on,” Rainold said. “I’m controlling the kite and watching where I’m going, then I turn around and all I’ve left behind me is my tracks.”Andy Frame can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
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