Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snowboarding Alternatives: Wind-Powered Snowboards

There is a general rule that if you take something and add wind-power it’s going to be a bit soft, but if you take something and stick an engine in it, it will be mental. Strangely in snowboarding it’s the other way round. A while back we looked at motorised snowboards and found them to be pretty underwhelming, however turning your snowboard into a wind-powered device produces an amazing variety of efficient snowboarder throwing/killing machines.  

Snow Kiting or Snow Kiteboarding 
The most established winter wind-powered sport, kiteskiing has been around since the 1960s (one of the pioneers was the awesomely named Wolf Beringer) and kiteskiing has since been adapted for snowboarders.
Wolf Beringer
ABC of Snowboarding spells it out a bit in their description of the sport 
Snowboarding Variations - Kite Snowboarding
Using kites has changed a lot of sports. A good example is Kite Surfing which developed from Surfers who used kites to propel their surf boards faster. Kite Snowboarding is a fairly new development in the sports arena. It is pretty similar to Kite Surfing but with one big difference: it is done on snow and not on Water.
I bet you saw that twist coming. ABC somehow managed to drag that description out for a further three paragraphs.
The manufacturers of the Winter Wing put their spin on the sport with their introduction: 
“Snowkiting is phantasmagoria. Where else can one ascend a slope propelled by an unseen fist of wind? Where colored kites punctuate the sky like glyph....and rewards are frequent and sweet...? Easily learned, snowkiting, evolutionary, the backdoor introduction to kiteboarding....”
Looking for a bit more detail I looked to Drift Snowkite magazine, who unfortunately get a bit mixed up with their description of the demographics of the sport   
The majority of men and women riders are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. But it is the teenagers that are really starting to push the sport. And there is no stopping as riders approach retirement. The 50 and over group is getting out too. 
So basically anyone does it then… 
Anyone except the poor. Yeah that’s one of the drawbacks of this sport.
Wind-powered Snowboarding Trend Number 1: Wind-Powered Snowboarding is Pricey. Snowboarding is a pretty expensive habit in the first place but when you start forking out for some wind assisted paraphernalia you really need to have access to a decent inheritance. Just doing some rough math I figure that the basic package would cost about $1,150 [kite $700, harness $100, control bars $350, bit of string (unsure of length) $1.99]
The guys at Real Kiteboarding are the guys that really give the sport a good pitch and you can start to see the benefits. 
They start with the big one.
While many of the pictures and videos feature mountain riding, some of your best sessions can be riding totally flat terrain. Athletic fields, farm fields, and frozen lakes covered with snow are ideal for kiting in the snow and any or all of these can be found close to home!
Wind-powered Snowboarding Trend Number 2: Wind-Powered Snowboarding is a viable Snowboarding Alternative.
By adding wind-power it really opens up lots of terrain to us snowboarder types that we’d never considered before. Let’s face it snowboarding really is one of the worst sports for the flat so that field was open for improvement. This brings us to an early and surprising conclusion that these types of sports can actually be a decent alternative to snowboarding in those circumstances. This is an historic event and the first time this has happened in our Snowboarding Alternatives articles.
Kiteboarding on the snow is easier than riding on the water for several reasons. For one, unless you’re God, you can’t walk on water but you can walk on snow! This makes things a lot easier and more mobile when setting up gear, walking (not swimming) home or setting up kickers and rails for your own park. All of these things can be done on foot, which is far easier than swimming.
These guys are a lot clearer with their target demographics than the last bunch, clearly realizing that most of their clientele will not be Gods
For the newbies out there, learning to kiteboard on the snow is easier than water because you don’t sink like in the water and it is much less intimidating.
I’ve thought of one more for them: You are 100% less likely not to die as a result of a shark attack.
No lift tickets and no lift lines mean instant fun at anytime during the winter.
All good. Are there any drawbacks though?
Yes. Number one in my mind is losing the ability to have children.
And number two is something they try and cover-up in their “Common Myths” section…
Myth: You’re going to wreck and end up in a wheelchair. 
Reality: You actually have a much better chance of doing this at a lift service mountain. The kite holds you up the air, softening all of the landings. Even in the worst position, straight downwind of you, it makes you slide across the landing surface. You never hit the snow as hard as you do in the park on a mountain.
Are there any facts to back this up? I decided to try and find out how dangerous this sport is. Turns out that it didn’t take long to find out it is pretty dangerous, here’s a montage from 
And a after very little research on their website (looking at the first page) found this:
Don't try this at home!
Not getting enough air in your frontmobe can be dangerous! Just ask Petter Johnsen, who broke his back in three places and had to be choppered to the hospital...Luckily he's not paralyzed and will be fully recovered by the end of the summer. Get well soon Petter!
Wind-powered Snowboarding Trend Number 3: Is it dangerous? Yup.
But Snow Kiting is not the only trick in the pony. Here are a few others that are a little more tame:
Wind Skiing - “It’s sailing ooooon snooow”
Sail Boarding – The poor man’s skidoo
Winter Windsurf or Ice Surfing or Iceboarding or Snowfer (Snowfering?) 
Wind-powered Snowboarding Trend Number 4: Sometimes, there can be just too much choice.
Throughout my spowsports experience I’ve really only had to consider two options: snowboarding or skiing. Wind-powered snowboarders however are faced with a baffling array of sports to choose from. One of the things that probably holds back these sports is that no one knows what to call them or how to find out about them. Trying to search for the information for this article on the Interweb it was a hell of a task. Wind-powered snowboarding alternatives I have found so far include; Snow Kiting, Snow Kiteboarding, Sail Boarding, Wind Ski, Wind Boarding, Winter Windsurf, Kitewing, Ice Surf, Iceboarding, Snowfer, Skywing, Speed Riding and Speedflying. I think I’ll just stick to snowboarding.
Speed Riding
I year or so ago I saw a Ski Sunday episode with British snowboarder Ed Leigh trying this out along with the skier Graham Bell. It’s a combination of snowboarding and parachuting that is the realization of James Bond’s wet dreams. The things I learned from that show is that this sport is mental, its very hard to pick up if you are a former professional skier, and its impossible to do if you are a snowboarder, hence why these videos are just of skiers.
Here’s a nice video. It’s refreshing to see a snowboard/ski movie with and actual plot. That concept could really take off. Anyway let’s get on to the guy with the badly fitting suit:
Got to say I like the strapping-in scene.

Here’s a good point-of-view video to give you some sense of just how mad this is. A couple of guys head down the Eiger, combining a dangerous sport with a legendarily man-eating mountain.
Watching that you have to wonder, is this sport also dangerous? The answer can be found in the story of the dead guy on the first page of the Speed Flying website
Wind-powered Snowboarding Trend Number 5: If you are writing a Wind-Powered Snowboard website - Over-explain everything.
The guys from Kitewing get their piece of the action by giving their sport a perfectly understandable name and then explaining that basic concept in way too much detail:
The Kitewing is a wing shaped kite. Many people call it “the wing” for short, just because of its shape. You can use Kitewing with your skis, snowboard, mountainboard, skates or in-line skates etc. Many say it is like a mix of kite surfing and wind surfing.
And yes this sport is also dangerous. In fact, even if you try it at low speeds, if you have decided to try it in a resort it’s a bad decision. Here’s some numpty trying to learn with other punters fleeing for their lives all around him...
It’s also dangerous on any type of hill...
Which brings us to the final and most important learning of them all...
Wind-powered Snowboarding Trend 6: Stick to the flat.
These sports all look like decent alternatives when it comes to flat ground and if you get a chance to give it a go, I recon it would be well worth a try. Where these sports go horrible wrong, however, is when people try taking them to the mountains. We’ve seen the dangers of hitting others and of the chances of massive falls but perhaps the biggest danger are the crazy mountain winds…
Besides you should really be snowboarding on the mountains anyway, get back to work.

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