• IKO Affiliated Center
  • Professional Certified Instructors
  • High Standards/Progressive Methods
  • Latest and Safest Equipment
  • Great Rates
  • Scenic Central Locations
  • Consistent Reliable Learning Conditions
  • Safe and Fun Learning Environment
  • Sierra Snowkite Center & KGB, The Ideal School for your Snowkiting Lessons.

We are proud to offer Snowkiting in the North Tahoe area in association with Sierra Snowkite Center, Sugarbowl.  SSC and KGB together offer the highest quality snowkiting instruction available. This guarantees that your memorable Snowkiting lesson experience will be packed with essential knowledge, be safe and very exciting. Let KGB Kiteboarding and SSC show you how easy and fun learning to Snowkite can be!

A short drive from the bay we are located at Lake Van Norden, Sugarbowl Resort, snowkiting students will enjoy some of the best and most consistant learning conditions in the Tahoe Area, along with a whole host of other amenities either on site or nearby including excellent restaurants, shopping, entertainment and hotels.

Most of our clients have some questions about the sport and our lesson program. We have put this FAQ & INFO page together to answer some of those and to generally get you more informed & safe before and after your lessons. So let’s begin!

SNOWKITING INFO AND SAFETY TIPS

As a new kiter, welcome to the exciting world of kiting, please always remember kiting can be a dangerous sport. Lessons are highly recommended for your safety and the safety of others.

It is already prohibited in many locations around the world as a result of unsafe kiting. Every kiter must be safe and responsible for themselves and others. If you see someone being unsafe please speak up! No one wants to get hurt, or hurt anyone else, and in many cases there are people out there that just don’t know. It is up to all of us the keep this sport safe so it can be enjoyed by all.

Here are some safety tips we should all practice:

  • Use launch area only for setup and take down.
  • Do not use skis as stakes to secure kites (as they stick up in the air, this creates a hazard for other kites landing in the area).
  • No self launching of inflatable kites in the launch area (Use assisted lauch when possible).
  • Launch and land your kite with no solid objects at least 100 yard downwind.
  • Do a pre-flight check on all your gear.
  • Walk down and slide your lines through your fingers. Feel for nicks, cuts or knots. (If your lines get run over they will get damaged from a board or
  • skis.)
  • When not in use bar and lines should be rolled up and stored on the kite.
  • Your kite should also be weighted with a sandbag (snowbag) or a stake, to keep it secure.
  • All kites must have a safety leash, and quick release systems. Know your specific systems and test them regularly.
  • Beginners should launch and learn downwind from other kiters (This includes the flying of trainer kites) .
  • Use experienced kiters only to help you launch and land your kite. Not Spectators!
  • Never let a line wrap around any part of your body! Carry a hookknife.
  • The signal for launch is “thumbs up.” By both parties!
  • The signal for an assisted landing is to “pat your head.”
  • No jumps or tricks in the launching area, or within 200 yards of other riders or from the parking lot/roads.
  • Down wind (leeward) has right of way.
  • Right of way-right hand forward kiter has right of way and shall maintain course.
  • Left hand forward kiter must give way and alter course
  • Up wind kiter should raise kite for passing.
  • Down wind kiter should lower kite for passing.
  • When using terrain features jumps, kickers and rails follow the same rotation and direction as other kiters as to not cause conflicts.

Use your safety tools

  • Lessons
  • common sense
  • kite leash
  • quick releases
  • knife
  • helmet
  • impact vest
  • knee/elbow pads
  • sandbags or ground stake

Do not fly any traction kite (foil, LEI, or otherwise) in proximity to power lines or any fixed obstacle, (trees, barbed wire, fences etc) distance is always your friend. Always use a leash that kills the kite’s power when the bar is dropped. This is for your safety, the safety of those around you, and because we don’t want to see anyone lose a kite.

Wind During the Winter Months

Winter winds in the area offer a lot of options for riding that are not available during the summer months. Because you are riding on frozen lakes, fields, ridgelines and mountain meadows, almost any wind direction is rideable, depending on the hazards and location of each spot. The colder air is also more dense, providing more power with less wind speed.

Be cautious of kiting around structures and near ridgelines as the updrafts and turbulence could cause your kite to fly erratically or even carry you up over the top. Be aware of any obstacles that may create various wind effects that may affect your ability to control the kite. Depending on the size of kites you own, you can ride in winds from 5-30 mph, but we suggest newcomers don’t try anything over 15mph until they are confident in their skills.

Factors to consider when choosing snowkiting gear

Riders Weight

Snowkiting, like most wind sports, requires different “sail” (kite) sizes depending on the speed of the wind, the rider’s ability, and the rider’s weight. The depth or lack of snow also plays a role: deep snow requires a lot of power from the kite whereas ice requires almost none.

Choosing the right kite

Snowkiting allows use of open cell foils, leading edge inflateables, water relaunchable foils and basic framed stunt kites. Open cell foils are by far the
least expensive route. These kites fly on two, three, or four lines and, in the case of most 3 and 4 line kites, can be reverse launched when nose down in the snow. The main advantages of foil kites are ease of setup, ability to reverse launch, durability, and price. The drawback of these kites is that most foils are not sheetable, meaning the power is always on so the wind range of each kite is limited.

Open Cell Foils (HQ Powerkites and most trainer kites)

Pros: Foils hands down are the easiest to set up and get going. They also pack down small and don’t require that you lug a pump around. Most high end foils have a reverse launch system so that they can be quickly relaunched after a crash without needing to take off your snowboard and weigh the kite down again or have a buddy assist you. The very high end foils have depower systems which work in the same way as inflatable 4 line kites, giving them much increased wind range. Most foils are also extremely durable, and can survive crashes that would cripple other kite designs.

Cons: Open cell foils are only useful for land/snow use as they will fill up with water rapidly if crashed while kitesurfing and turn into a fantastic sea anchor. Foils also have a tendency to collapse and behave erratically in gusty winds with lots of lulls. It’s not uncommon to have the kite stall out and wrap itself up in its own bridle.

SLE Inflatable Kites (LEI, Bow Shaped or Delta C)

Pros: Supported leading edge kites are simple relaunch on the snow and water. Enormous depower range and built in safety system. It’s the same kite you might use
on the water, so you might already be used to its flight characteristics. The rigid skeleton of the inflated leading edge and struts maintains the kite’s shape even in lulls. These kites just seem to want to stay airborne, and the gusts have much less effect on them, as do most of the lulls. Avoid older regular C-shaped 4 and 5 line kites as they are for advanced riders and can be less stable and more difficult to learn with.

Cons: Durability is a concern when flying on lightly covered fields. Sharp sticks, ice shards, rocks or brush can easily penetrate the leading edge bladder and lead to a time consuming repair. You need to pump these kites up, but with most current kites coming with single point inflation, this is less of an issue than it once was.

Framed Stunt Kites 

Lots of people have an old framed stunt kite in the closet. These kites are great to start your snowkiting experience on. They won’t pull too hard but can at least get you the feel of what it will be like. They work great for smaller kids in the 60-100 pound range that want to learn. Pull out that old kite and give it a try.

Final Thoughts

Cost is the biggest factor. Think about what you want to do more often, snowkite or waterkite. If you come to a decision between buying a snowkite and buying a water kite, go with the water kite in a Bow or SLE shape, as this will allow you to do both. If cost is no object, and convenience is important, the foil kites are hard to beat for portability and ease of setup.

Kite Size

In general, fly a kite one size smaller than you would in the summer for the same wind speed. Ice/hard snow is nearly friction free, and cold air is much denser than warm air – so you need less kite. On a 10-20 mph day on hardpack, a 170 lb person would use a 12m LEI, a 6-8 meter foil, or an 8-10 meter sheetable foil. The heavier the rider the bigger the kite needed. The stronger the winds the smaller the kite needed etc. Sounds confusing; it can be. There is a learning curve to judging wind speed and kite size, always err on the side of safety.

On hardpack you could learn and get moving on a kite half as big as those in the example. Deeper snow means a larger kite; very deep snow with skis needs
the same size kite as someone kiteboarding on the water. Common sense should always be used, if not sure of right size for conditions start small and work
up in size.

What to Ride

For your first season, use whatever you feel comfortable with and have ridden more. It is not necessary to have the best pair of skis or the nicest snowboard around to enjoy snowkiting.

Skis

Shorter terrain park twin tip skis can be a benefit when you progress in your riding, but are not necessary to have fun. Skis have the advantage of being able to move your feet and allow you to get more kite control if the winds are gusty and light. Depending on size and shape, skis can hold an edge at incredible speeds.

Snowboards

Snowboards have the advantage of giving you a ride closer to water kiteboarding. Your stance and leg movement are very similar, thus it will translate to your kiteboarding in the spring. The biggest difference will be in weight distribution. You will need much more pressure on your front while snowboarding to maintain an edge. Snowboard sizing is highly subjective, but in general a 165cm board works well for a 6 foot tall person. Snowboard bindings: flow or other easy entry bindings are a plus, but don’t feel that you need to invest a fortune in new gear.

Where to Ride

An ideal location when learning would be a large, well-frozen lake or open meadow with 4-6 inches of new snow on top of hardpack. This gives some padding when you fall, but is not so deep that it bogs down a beginner. As you progress, you’ll be looking for deeper and deeper snow. Many snowkiters also use large open fields; just make sure that you obtain permission first if this is private land. As your skills progress you can explore mountain meadows and backcountry ridges above treelines.

Make sure that wherever you ride, you inspect the area prior to setting up your kite. Identify and stay well away from trees, fences, roads, houses, and powerlines. Give at least 100 yards space downwind to any obstacle, and remember that on ice you can’t stop rapidly, and if you fall you will slide a very long way.

It’s also important to point out that snowkiting can generate some enormous jumps, and that ice is harder than concrete. Don’t boost unless you know that you have more than enough snow to land safely. Think safety first, and enjoy yourself. If a situation looks sketchy, then don’t ride in that area.

Additional Snowkiting Gear

Helmet

This is key, and not an option because black ice is harder than concrete. Find a good ski or snowboard helmet that fits, and wear it. Some use hockey or
other helmets as well; the point is that you need skull protection when on the ice. There are several arguments as to which type of helmet is best; most
helmets are built like bike helmets and use a hard, energy-absorbing foam core. These helmets are light weight, but remember, after one solid head impact
the helmet must be replaced.

Ice Claws

If you kite on frozen lakes, get a pair. They are simple ice picks that are essential to self rescue in the event you fall through the ice. They allow you to get a grip and pull yourself up and across the ice.

Clothing

Dress like you would for skiing, layer up and be prepared to take off one layer of clothing. This is an energy-intensive sport similar to cross country skiing, so you will be working out. Bring an extra layer so that you can put on dry warm clothes when you are finished and begin to cool down. Normally we wear a shell parka and shell pants, and lightly insulated windproof gloves to keep dry and to block the wind. Remember outdoor winter activities carry with them the inherent risk of hyperthermia and frostbite, Please take some time to educate yourself on these risks, preventive techniques and treatment thereof.

Harness

This is up to the individual. For snowkiting most beginners prefer wearing a seat harness. Waist harnesses allow more freedom of movement, but put the load up higher and are difficult to wear under winter clothing which may be uncomfortable for some. Seat harnesses are a bit more comfortable for long-term riding as they put the weight on your hips and the hook sits lower for easy access. But it’s up to you and what you feel comfortable in.

Pads

Wear whatever you feel you need. I use knee pads and elbow pads; some don’t. Other guys wear downhill mountain bike body armor; it all depends on how high or fast you want to go. Always be prepared and remember that being a bit over protected is better than not being protected enough.

Please continue to use this as a reference tool, and again welcome to the sport of snowkiting. Feel free to contact us with any questions.