Soaring into summer on Loveland Pass
summit daily news
Perhaps the only thing more fun than snowboarding down the side of a backcountry peak strapped to a giant kite and soaring for 20, 40 or 60 seconds in the air is being able to do it well into July.
Snowkiting season is winding down in Summit County, but avid kiters say there are a few good days left up on Loveland Pass this season. Bryce DeQuoy and Gary Greene, who operates GG Wind out of Breckenridge, said like other snowsport athletes, snowkiters have had a pretty epic year. Their most recent trip up the pass was last week, capping off a 140-day season.
For Greene, the lift lines at Keystone became a little too long to tolerate. So, an experienced kiteboarder on water, he found a new way to fly up the hill – by hitching a ride with a kite.
Not only does it drag riders up the mountain, it allows them to ski and ride lines that they never would have been able to without such a mechanism, Greene said. Pro-level riders can soar for up to five minutes, 150 feet or more in the air – solid intermediates are looking at hang times of more than 20 seconds, 60 feet in the air.
“I can go to places in a matter of minutes that would take you hours without a kite,” said Greene, who has been doing the sport for six years and now provides lessons professionally during the winter. “My highest recorded day riding on snow was 69 miles. And that’s all fresh tracks. I think that’s what I like about the sport the most. Last week, we went up and road for four hours in six inches of fresh snow.”
The ideal day for kiting is clear with fresh powder and a lot of wind, but conditions don’t have to be perfect, as equipment and safety mechanisms continue to evolve.
“The kite that I was given six years ago, I show it to people who know about the sport, and they say, ‘Holy (crud), how are you still alive?’ Technology has come so far, from C kites to bow kites, in the last five years. They are basically equal within reason, but 85 percent of the kites on the market are friendly to use and very safe.”
DeQuoy, newer to the kiting, picked up the sport last fall and logged a 40-day season this winter and spring. Originally form Michigan, he moved to Summit County last year for the amenities of Keystone and Breck but found backcountry snowkiting more appealing.
“On a groomer day at Keystone, I’ve cruised to 77 mph on my GPS and launched off Lovers Leap in Vail – none of that compares to the rush of snowkiting,” DeQuoy said. “I saw people doing it and wanted to learn. … It’s insane.”
There is kiting available on the south and east side of Loveland Pass, but on the extremely rare occasion of an upslope storm (blowing from the Front Range and circling around back up the Continental Divide), they can ride the Loveland Ski Area side of the pass, which is steeper with longer soars.
“The easiest way to get into snowkiting is to take a lesson on the lake. The higher you go up the greater the wind goes,” Greene said. “By taking a lesson as a beginner, you can become a novice or an intermediate in three or four hours, if you have any mechanical skills at all. I’ve had guys up-and-running on their skis in 10 minutes.”
Every student is different, he said. Some folks are a little more timid when the wind is howling and others just want to go for it.
“I’m 48 years old. When I put my kite in my hand, I feel like a kid with a new toy. It’s quiet – all you hear is the wind blowing. And you can go from two feet in the air to 60 feet in the air at the drop of a hat. I can go places that (kiteless riders) can only dream of, and I can do it for hours upon end.”
To arrange a lesson or learn more, contact Greene’s company, GG Wind, at GG@com
cast.net. Unfortunately for kiters, Dillon Reservior prohibits the water equivalent of the sport during the summer, which is something advocates have been working to change.
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