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Finding the pure joy of sliding on snow with Uinta Kiting

PARK CITY, Utah —For many, skiing and snowboarding are about the enjoyment of sliding on snow and the feeling of freedom from the everyday annoyances of real life. While those feelings might remain, there are many potential roadblocks in the reality of trying to ski at a resort or heading out into the backcountry, whether it be the dreaded parking experiences at a ski resort or having to be always on alert in the backcountry, its easy to find yourself just staying home rather than heading out. What if there was another option?

Snowkiting is a growing sport offered to both snowboarders and skiers alike. While not alpine skiing, there are similarities and a sense of freedom that doesn’t require lift tickets, parking reservations, or the risk of heading into the backcountry with other people of various skill levels, adding to the safety risk. Far more intuitive than it looks, snowkiting is an achievable activity for any solid snowboarder or skier to learn with some training and effort.  Best of all, Utah is a world-famous location for the sport, with few people crowding the prime areas. There are several nearby places to go snowkiting within one or two hours of Park City, such as Richardson Flat on Basin Recreation land or Strawberry Reservoir further east.

“Snowkiting is so much fun.  Getting pulled by a kite on your snowboard or skis is just the beginning of snowkiting’s appeal.  You can use the kite like your own personal chair and get yourself up hills to make turns.  You can use it like a snowmobile to explore open spaces.  On a powder day, you never have to cross a track.  There are endless freshies,” said Rob Umstead, who founded Uinta kiting in 2014. “More advanced kites can use the kite to ‘glide’ down the hills.  This is when the kite lifts you off the snow and turns into more of a paraglider.  Experienced kiters can glide in the air for minutes and land as soft as a feather hundreds of yards down the slope… it seems like there is always something new and different to try.”

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Everything starts by taking a lesson where an instructor from Uinta Kiting. The first lessons are one-on-one or two-on-one lessons primarily conducted on foot, with the student learning to master controlling the kites. These basic skills can usually be learned in around two hours for experienced skiers and snowboarders who have some experience with a kite; however,  if students are brand new to kiting, then three hours is recommended.

“The first lesson is all about kite control, we start students out on smaller ‘trainer kites,'” Umstead said. “These kites steer the same as the bigger kites but have much less pull.  We run the students through a few drills to get them used to the steering and control.  They learn about the “Wind Window” and how to get more power to the kite when needed.  Once the control starts to get ingrained, we move up to larger kites. We teach students how to safely launch and land, how to relaunch the kites when they go down, and how to totally de-power the kite if they get in an uncomfortable situation.”

While there is a learning curve to master, as with any other sport, the barrier to doing so is far less intimidating than it might look from the outside. Each time setting up the kite, the lines and all that is involved will add a layer of understanding and comfort till it eventually is just like going through the motions. The key is to spend time in the field practicing.

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“Snowkiting gets easier and easier every time you do it. There is a point where you realize that you are no longer watching the kite and just know where it is by feeling,” Umstead said. “From this point on, snowkiting is a different ball game.  You know how to create pull when you need it and minimize it when you don’t, and everything seems so effortless. The basics of snowkiting can be learned in just a few hours.  Our goal at Uinta kiting is to get you to the point of being safely independent, usually just one lesson for a strong skier or boarder.  From there, we can get students set up with the proper gear so they can continue to ride and progress on their own.”

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In addition to lessons, Uinta Kiting also sells new and used equipment. Students of Uinta Kiting also receive a discount. The kites used for snowkiting also work for kitesurfing during the summer, which Uinta Kiting also teaches.

“We also offer Kitesurfing lessons on Deer Creek Reservoir all summer long,” Umstead said. “Deer Creek is an outstanding place to ride on the water. The snowkiting experience can really help speed up the learning as well. One hour of snow kite lessons is equivalent to a three-hour day of water lessons because it is just easier to do when you’re not floating.”

To learn more about snowkiting and kitesurfing, visit the Uinta Kiting website.


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