Sailing with the Wind
When you’re sailing through the air, it feels as though there’s a giant rope tow in your backpack that is lifting you off the ground. The feeling lasts for only 5 to 10 seconds, until you softly land back on the ground and keep skiing. But then it happens again and keeps on happening over and over again. This is how snowkiting works. This lift, both literal and figurative, brings with it a rush of adrenaline, and anyone with any experience snowkiting knows what invigorating business this sport can be.
Snowkiting attaches skiers and snowboarders to a kite that billows out like a parachute and allows them to ride across and above the snow propelled by wind power. Nature is the guide, and though you help navigate, you’re really just along for the ride.
You can ski in the powder for miles, explains Andrew Monty Goldman, who runs Sun Valley–based Snowkite Soldier (see below). Snowkiting is an exciting eco-friendly alternative to skiing and snowboarding on lift-served mountains because while others are hitching a ride up the mountain on a ski-lift, skilled kiters can be swept by the wind along backcountry terrain at speeds up to 50 mph (81kmph), sail up 40 to 50 feet (12–15m) in the air on flat ground or up to 100 feet (30m) in the air while ascending a hill or mountain.
This crossover sport, which was born from kite surfing (p. 146), is growing in popularity. Anyone who is an intermediate skier or snowboarder should be able to go snowkiting. (You must be at least 8 years old.) Snowkite Soldier offers a variety of programs ranging from basic kiting techniques and safety to backcountry-guided service. During the 11⁄2-hour basic training course you learn about wind theory, the power zone, the wind window, launching, landing, and safety all before you fly a trainer kite. During your first mission, you learn about setting up and handling your kite, controlling your speed, how to climb hills, and maneuver through obstacles. By the end you’ll be kiting through the powder. During the advanced course, experienced riders start to jump, ski, or board up mountains, tack upwind, and ride in deep snow—all a thrill.
Snowkite Soldier’s instructors take beginners to a scenic area near Sun Valley, centrally located in Idaho, not far from the Sawtooth National Recreation area. More advanced snowkiters are taken to an area near Fairfield, Idaho, to the southwest of Sun Valley, to a large, open section of backcountry, where one can snowkite for many miles. The company also offers all-inclusive 4-day/3-night adventure camps.
Sun Valley has been a popular resort with the rich and famous since the 1930, but community—rife with galleries, restaurants, and shops in addition to the incredible surrounding wilderness—has enough riches of its own that there’s plenty for visitors of all walks of life.