Go Snowkiting in Tahoe
Who needs a chairlift when you have a kite? Tyler Brown, the director of the Sierra Snowkite Center, teaches skiers and snowboarders how to use the wind to their advantage at Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort, located in California's Tahoe region.
"It adds another element to skiing besides gravity," says Brown, a former North American Snowkite Champion. "With a kite and the right amount of wind, you can ski uphill at 30-miles per hour. Not that I'd recommend tearing up the mountain that fast. But let's just say it's possible."
More commonly, snowkiters use the wind to enhance the experience — to take them deeper into the backcountry, to glide across wide open meadows, and to gain an extra oomph on jumps.
Brown offers a 1.5-hour "Intro to Kite Flying" lesson for $75 for those who just want a taste, without committing to the four-hour "Learn to Snowkite" program (and the $350 investment). Both sessions are held at the pristine Van Norden Meadow, a 250-acre high Sierra meadow with consistent winds and wide-open terrain.
On the ten-minute walk from the Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort parking lot, Brown explains the basics of mountain wind, and mountain wind theory. In the meadow, against the backdrop of the high peaks of nearby Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, participants start standing on the snow without skis. Brown introduces the trainer kite, which is about 25 percent the size of a regular snowkite, making it simpler and safer to maneuver. Participants master "powering" and "depowering" the training kite, as well as turning it.
The Intro to Kite Flying lesson stops there, while the others go on to learn to maneuver the full-size kite while on skis or snowboards. "We use a lot of the same concepts as kitesurfing, but the learning curve is way less steep," says Brown, who teaches the water version of the sport in the summer. "It takes about four days to be able to kitesurf, but you'll be snowkiting in less than four hours."
[$350; includes snowkite rental. Bring skis/snowboard gear and apparel, and don't forget your helmet.]