After a year of wondering, I ended up buying kiteboard equipment for snowkiting with skis or a snowboard. Now after several sessions of sliding through the icy lake with the help of the kite this art of a sport begins to piece together.
As the amount of snowkiters is rising in Finland, more information is available and the experiences are shared on a forum specialized in kiteboarding. The number of sports enthusiasts of this art has been growing around the world.
I got to know about it by chance more than year ago when I was on Pallas Tunturi, when a snowkite association held a camp there. The way of kiting looked nice from the top of skiing summit. Several kites moved across the fjeld to another and third one. In fact, while I was in an anchor lift, I was just paying attention to these conquerors of the crown of the fells. These kite drivers in the Pallas National Park had a much wider ski area than me and my friend, who did not have kites. Also in the off ski piste areas there, the powder-snow conditions at that time were quite good. I ended up buying a used kite, harness and control bar and got a decent guidance session from the former owner of the set.
It is already clear that kiter should be acquainted with the information provided by the internet and be able to estimate the speed, quality and direction of the wind before kiting. However, by a miracle I got the kite to the air even though the wind speed was quite low. On that first time of flying the kite on ice, I would estimate 4 meters per second was enough for the wind speed, that it managed to lift the kite successfully. Getting familiar with safety systems should be done indoors in peace or then on a no wind day outdoors. Compared to older bars, security systems and kite handling are more comfortable with new kite bars and lines, but in the last few years, the kites have developed so that pulling happens easy.
The kites of the 10’s seem to fit in a small space, usual size backpack acts as a pack, especially within the last five years, even more compact kites have been developed. The kite even gets in to the backpack on the fly. Climbing on the fjeld with kite and coming back by downhill skiing has become possible by open foil kites, those pack well and fast. Safety issues in hilly regions, like fjelds, where wind conditions may be changing rapidly, should be done carefully. It is ideal to climb with a kite on a fjeld of choice in suitable wind conditions, after the kite packing process and down the mountain path of choice, without forgetting the possibility of avalanches.
In Lappeenranta, a typical day trek is from Sammonlahti to Taipalsaari for a day coffee and back. For longer trips you should go with two or more people. Longer treks requires some know-how of the Greater Saimaa, due to the melting points on the ice caused by possible flows in the lake’s waters. Falling through ice is unusual, as the kiter moves very quickly and the person’s pressure on the surface of the ice is reduced by the skis. Detecting places that don’t have ice cover is easy.
I was surprised by the ease of this sport, although learning the use of the kite has caused headaches and swearing sometimes. When the wind calms down while kiting, kiters must wait for new breeze on the icy lake in the middle of nowhere. In the worst-case scenario, when the wind is not coming back, the kiter must cros-country ski or walk to the nearest road.
The lines got tangled several times, almost every time, but a skillful kiter can fix those lines fast. The kite is then fastened with five lines to a trapezoid, depending on model, to the seat or waist. You move right or left tangentially to the direction of wind at some random angle up or down, when kiting. The lower the kite is over the surface of the snow, the faster you will move forward.
The kites have three models with open cell foil kite, leading edge inflatable kite and closed cell foil kite. The open cell foil kite is obviously open, so it is not possible to use it in the summertime, because it can get water inside it quite easily. The pumping kite includes air space where air is pumped, whereby the kite keeps its shape continuously. There are videos and other material on the principles, the maker’s pages are a great source for the purchase of one.
After the snow fall cruising on the snow-covered ice is like an eternal powder off-piste track. From the point of hiker changes to go to the extraordinary areas of the lake are tremendous good. Those nature conservation areas, where movement is allowed, but accessing in general is difficult, can be reached. Finding mountains or long slopes in southern Finland is difficult or there is not such a thing. Longest slopes in Finland are 2 – 3 km long. By snow-kiting planar slopes are lengthy, well seemingly familiar with downhill skiing with the turns and movement forward and most talented practitioners can jump long and high jumps with the kite.
Discussions where on that, if snowkiting had potential here in the lake are on good ice covered eastern Finland on tourism. Great winter activity for tourists on icy lakes or icy Baltic sea. Suitable guidance and safety instructions and learning by doing is fun. Of course previous skills of skiing or snowboarding are an asset. One day courses teach people to do some snowkiting as it is easier than the summer version kiteboarding. Snowkite trek with the guide to an island on lake Saimaa for lunch on a sunny day and back could be included to a package of exclusive Spa holiday or cottage holiday.
Powder conditions are in demand all over the world among the skiers and snowboarders, snowkiting on ice or in Lapland’s fells offers endless snow tracks. Wider kites in the scale of 21 square meters are suitable even in the wind speeds of 3 m/s, so lower wind speeds cause no trouble. 12 to 14 sq. m are already applicable for the most wind speeds.
Globally kiteboarding is hot, snowkiting seemingly following. From the web I found video where in an Estonian had speed more than 100 km/h on the icy sea. On Lake Onega, a race of crossing the lake takes place. Greenland has been circled by kiting, 5200 km and 55 days of travelling. Other group have made Greenland crossing in 27 days and 2620 km. Now in Greenland they make arranged tours for the most enthusiastic kiters.
Kirjoittaja työskentelee Alivella.
The writer is an alumni of LUT and is spending lazy days at home while searching for work and writing for Alive.