For many people that live where lakes freeze and snow covers the
ground, outdoor winter activities are limited to the weekend ice skate
or pilgrimage to the local ski/snowboard or cross-country resort. For a
growing number of winter wind riders the thought of frozen lakes and
snow covered terrain is welcomed with anticipation and excitement. It's
time again to sharpen your skis, wax your snowboard and check the lines
on your kite. Did you say kite?

There are many forms of winter wind riding, but the predominant one at
this festival is based on using kite power to pull an individual across
the snow and ice on skis, or snowboard. It is very similar to sailing a
boat or wind surfing. The rider generally travels perpendicular to the
direction of the wind, but can gradually move up wind or down wind by
zigzagging back and forth slightly off the wind; a sailing term called

Sometimes when the kite generates a bit more pull, the rider can even
perform short maneuvers in the air. Basic traction kiting can be
learned safely in a few hours under the supervision of an experienced
instructor. The training can be given in almost any open area with a
bit of wind. After some basic sailing principles, the student is ready
to harness the power of the wind with their kite and translate this
pull in to motion.

This is usually achieved within the first few days of instruction. The
required equipment is a traction kite (CDN$200-$1100), skis or
snowboard, and a harness. You'll also want some knee and elbow pads and
a helmet. As for clothing, Layer! Layer! Layer! Many beginners tend to
overdress for this sport. The amount of exertion a typical rider
experiences is similar to that of a long distance runner. A typical
wind rider usually acquires 2-3 different sized kites in the first two
years for different wind strengths. Depending on the type of kite, it
can be used for other wind powered activities in the summer, like kite
surfing or kite buggying.

A kite surfer sails on the water
using a short board, somewhat like a small surf or wake board. In kite
buggying, the rider uses the pull of the wind to power themselves while
seated in a three wheeled buggy they steer with their feet. It goes
without saying that any activity in which an individual interacts with
the unpredictable forces of Mother Nature, in this case the wind, can
be inherently dangerous. If you're just starting out, please do some
research and work with an experienced instructor. Not only will this
protect you but others around you and in the end you'll spend less time
struggling and more time enjoying yourself.