How to Snowkite
Step One, Practice with a Trainer/Beginner Kite
- Get the kite: You can purchase one of these kites from a local sporting goods store or online for $60 to $300. They should be between 1 and 3 meters in square area (the package should tell you this information). The difference in price is due to quality of material and the size of the kite. A more expensive kite will normally last longer so you can share it with friends when you're finished training. You may also be able to borrow a trainer kite from an instructor or buddy. Get a kite that uses a control bar, because this is likely what you'll use when snowkiting.
- Find a location: Look for an open, grassy or snow-covered area. You don't want any obstructions upwind that will disrupt the windflow in your kiting spot (the general rule is that windflow will disturbed for a downwind distance equal to three times the height of the obstruction). Also, you don't want anything downwind or to your sides that will snag your kite. Make sure you have enough distance downwind as to not be dragged into anything. Don't kite near active streets/highways, railroad tracks, groups of people, or anything else that might cause an undesirable situation, should you lose control of your kite.
- Kite the right wind conditions: A kite's lifting power grows dramatically with the increasef of windspeed. When the windspeed increases from 15 knots to 30 knots (doubles), the kite's pull increases four times! This is the difference between feeling sporty tension and being dragged (yarded) uncontrollably. While you're learning, fly in safe windspeeds. Remember, everybody will laugh at you for getting yarded by a trainer. Getting injured is stupid.
- Build your skills:The end goal is to be able to fly the kite with your eyes closed (literally). But keep your eyes open until you have kiting down solid.
- Preparation:Assuming your trainer kite is a small two-line, open-cell foil on a bar:
- Spread the kite out on its “back” so that the wingtips are far apart and the bridals (the complex lines that connect directly to the kite) are on top. Make sure the bridals are not tangled with the bar/lineset. The kite should be situated so that the trailing edge (the edge that doesn't have “air intake duct/openings”) is upwind, the wingtips are spread perpendicular to the wind, and the leading edge (edge with air intake openings) is downwind.
- Set something relatively heavy (but not sharp) on the back /trailing edge of the kite. If there's snow, use that as your weight. If you're on grass, use sacks filled with sand. This will keep the kite un-inflated and on the ground while you prepare the lines.
- Unwrap your lines, walking upwind as you do it. Hold the bar with one hand and use your other hand to pull the lines off. Don't let the bar spin. It should stay firmly in your grasp the entire time. This will reduce the likelihood of twists in the line when you're done. Unwrap the lines completely, so that the bar is free except for the two connection points that meet the bar ends. With your back to the wind, the lines stretched in front of you, and the kite downwind, make sure that the red side of your bar is on your left hand side and the black side of your bar is on your right hand side. Now (with the kite on its back & w/ bridals on top), the flyline extending from the left (red) side of your bar should connect to the left wingtip of the kite. The fly line extending from the right (black) side of your bar should connect to the right wingtip of your kite. If this isn't the case, make it right.
- Check your lines.
i.Make sure that neither your two “flylines” nor your “bridal” lines are knotted or twisted on each other.
ii.Check to make sure your “larks-head” knots are tight and won't come loofse during flight.
iii.Check the condition of your lines. If there are any frays or worn looking areas, replace the lines.
iv.If something looks wrong, that's probably the case. Fix it before you go ahead.
- Assuming you have steady, ample wind (probably somewhere above 7 knots), walk back to your bar.
- Make sure that nobody is in between you and the kite's possible flight path. One method is to stretch your arms to your side, and make sure nobody is in front of them for 150 feet out on both sides of you. Your kite lines are made from Spectra. Spectra doesn't stretch and is very thin... which means it'll cut someone. Think deep paper cut. Under enough tension from a fast moving kite, spectra line can cause severe injury. Again, don't let anyone go between you and the kite.
- ***Before going any further, you need to learn this concept.***
The Wind Window: You'll soon discover that the kite flies faster and generates more pull as it moves further downwind and in front of you. As the kite flies away from the downwind position and further to your sides or overhead (assuming your back is to the wind), it moves slower and generates less pull. We use the term “wind window” to describe this change in pull at different position. To help you visualize, do the following w/out the kite: With your back to the wind, stretch your arms to your sides. Imagine an arc stretching from your right hand, passing overhead, and ending at your left hand. This arc would represent the “edge of the wind window.” As your kite flies closer to the edge of the wind window (the arc) it produces less pull and flies slower. As it moves away from the edge of the wind window and in front of you (down wind), the kite speeds up and produces more pull. Directly in front of you and about 35-60 degrees above the horizon you'll find the most power. This position is the “center of the wind window.”
- Preparation:Assuming your trainer kite is a small two-line, open-cell foil on a bar:
- When you're ready, grab the control bar. Your back should be to the wind. Your left hand should be on the red section of the bar, and your right hand should be on the black section. Now put a little bit of tension on the lines. If everything is set-up correctly, the kite's leading edge should lift and the kite should fill with air.
- When you want the kite to launch, increase bar tension steadily. Eventually, enough resistance will be created for the kite to pull upward and the weights (or snow) to fall from the trailing edge of the kite. Your kite should fly straight up.
- When the kite is directly vertical (above you), it's said to be in the “zenith” position. Here it's going to fly and not create as whole lot of pull. If the trainer kite is designed right, it shouldn't fly past you overhead (Gusty conditions can cause “overflight” on any kite, so avoid gusty wind. Also, some kites are designed for more advanced kiters and will overfly without proper use.)
- Steering your kite: Use your control bar as you would a bicycle handlebar. To turn the kite left, pull on the left (red) side of the bar and push the right (black) side away from your body. To turn it right, pull on the right (black) side of the bar and push the left (red) side away from your body.
i.Start simply by trying to keep the kite at the zenith. Lightly pull/push on the bar so that the kite moves slowly to and from the zenith.
ii.When you feel comfortable keeping your kite at the zenith, try more aggressive turns. Keep the kite relatively high so that you have plenty of room to recover before it crashes.
iii.Keep upping your skill limits until you can steer the kite into all positions of the wind window.
- Fly your kite to edge of the wind window and steer it near the ground.
- Have someone grab and secure your kite before you let go of the control bar.
- Wrapping it up:
- With the kite secured, wrap up your lines. Use a figure eight motion to wrap your lines around the ends of the bar. Keep tension on the lines as you wind them.
- When your flylines are almost completely wrapped and you're a foot from the bridal lines, wrap the last foot of lines around the bar perpendicular to the other wrap (a circular motion around the rod, like fish'n string around a tin can).
- Keep the bar (w/ flylines) away from the bridals and lay it in front of the kite.
- Fold the kite's wingtips into the center, with the bridals inside. Repeat until the folded kite is about as wide as the bar. Make sure the air is out of the kite and all the bridals are inside the folds.
- Place the bar on top of the front edge of the folded kite. Wrap the bar into the kite (like rolling up a tent with the stake-bag in the center).
- Go home and post about it on snowkiting.com!
Again, get an experienced kiter or instructor to help you, stay safe, and have fun!
How to choose a snowkite:
Choosing the right snowkite depends on your experience level, body size, riding style, etc…
Are you a beginner kiter?
If you’ve never used a power-kite before, it’s not a good idea to strap yourself to a big kite.Start with a one to four meter ‘trainer’ or ‘beginner’ kite.Several kite manufacturers sell small, quality kites at low prices in order to get you into the sport and hooked on their brand.Cheap off-brand kites are also available.These budget kites are virtually disposable, but could be a good option for someone that want to learn kiting basics then move on to a larger kite (and don’t plan on sharing the kite with friends later). I suggest buying the high quality kite because you'll want to use it to teach friends in the future... plus it can be used for snowkiting on very windy days (my first snowkite session was with a 2M kite in 45 mph winds; very fun!).
Make sure that the kite is on a bar (as opposed to handles).This is important because you should be accustomed to using a bar, which is most likely what you’ll be using when you snowkite (only a handful of expedition snowkiters still use handles).Trainers are typically open-cell foil kites (like a paraglider wing) because of their durability---they will be rammed into the ground time after time.Trainers can be two-line (w/out brakes) or three/four-line kites (w/ breaks), but are rarely sheetable (meaning that you can change the aerodynamic pitch angle and use de-power).A good trainer kites should also be stable and require minimum correctional control.
Here’s a list of beginner/trainer kites:
- Ozone Imp 3.5M Trainer on Bar
- Slingshot B2 & B3 Trainers
- HQ Beamer 2M & 3M (doesn’t come with bar)
- Flexifoil Buzz (doesn’t come with bar)
- Peter Lynn Pepper 2 (doesn’t come with bar)
- Liquid Force 2M Trainer Kite
- Best 2M & 3M Trainer