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Kite-Telemarking | How To Snowkite On Telemarking Skis

Kiteskiing on Telemarking Skis

Once kite skiing becomes more and more popular, some telemark enthusiasts start asking “can I use my telemark skis with the kite”. The answer is a resounding “yes”. 

Table of Contents

Brent Kite-telemarking
Brent is kitetelemarking in a classic telemark position

Modern telemark skis and boots are pretty strong and provide more than enough support for kitetelemarking.  Some of the modern telemark bindings can even release automatically similar to downhill ski bindings.

But why kitetelemarking?  The answer is not quite as straightforward as kite skiing or kite snowboarding. While telemarking is a hybrid of cross country skiing and downhill skiing, kite-telemarking is simply a more stylish version of kiteskiing.  With telemark skis, the kiter can get in a classic telemark position which looks more solid and very stylish compared to the normal kite skiing position.  So if you want to do it with style then kite-telemarking is for you!

Besides, with telemark skis, the kiter is more flexible and more mobile when the kite is down.  Similarly, telemark skis are more suitable when you want to go out kiting with the family and tow your kids behind you on their toboggans or on their skis.  Similar to kiteskiing, kitetelemarking is so easy to learn that if your kids already feel comfortable on telemark skis, they can learn kitetelemarking with a small kite.

Kitetelemarking is easier than kitesurfing. So, if you live in a colder climate and want to get into kitesurfing, don’t wait until spring, go kite-telemarking now! The skill you learn in kitetelemarking will be very useful in kitesurfing.

The Snowkiting Equipment

(The pine tree in the background on the right is the jump-over target)
To go kitetelemarking you need the following equipment
  1. A traction kite, lines, and associated control device.  Any land or water kite can be used for kitetelemarking.  Inflatable kites can also be used for it, especially the new Flat Inflatable (Flat LEI or bow kites) which can relaunch very easily on snow.  For classic inflatable kites, you may want to rig up a 5th line to facilitate relaunching on snow.  On very cold days, it is wise to pump up the struts indoor such that you only have to pump up the leading edge outside.  Similar to kitesurfing, make sure you have a safety release system that you can depower the kite at any moment. Furthermore, you may want to use a kite that provides good depowering capability such that you don’t have to stop and change to a smaller or larger kite as frequently. Similar to kitesurfing, you would need a number of kites to cover the whole wind range.  
  2. A pair of telemark skis.  As a rule-of-thumb, use modern telemark skis as they are both stronger and some modern telemark bindings can release automatically similar to downhill bindings. 
  3. A pair of modern telemark boots.
  4. A kitesurfing or windsurfing harness (waist or seat harness is fine).
  5. A helmet (a must on ice or hard-pack as you don’t want to test the “rigidity” of your skull when it hits the ice).
  6. If you do a lot of jumping on hardpack or ice, protect your body with a wakeboard impact vest with elbow and knee pads or simply use the same protective equipment that a hockey player uses.
  7. Warm clothing.  You normally need less warm clothing kitetelemarking than skiing.  It’s best to use layers such that you can take off some layers when it gets too warm.
  8. A good pair of thin, yet warm, mitten.  Don’t use gloves as your fingers can get cold rapidly.  You may want to use a pair of thin inner gloves in case you have to use your hand to work on the lines.

So how big a kite you need?  As snow and ice have much less friction than water, you should use a smaller kite as you would for kitesurfing (on average, about 2/3 of the size you would use for kitesurfing; smaller on ice – 1/2 – and larger on powder snow – 3/4). 

 If you fly the kite straight overhead, you should be able to feel the pull from the kite and be able to walk backward with some reasonable effort.  If you feel the kite lift around 1/3 of your weight and can barely walk backward then you have more power than you would need.

Best Spots for Kiteskiing and Kite-telemarking

The best place is probably a frozen lake.  Just make sure you have checked the ice condition.  In the early or late season, the ice condition may be conditional, so it’s wise to stay close to shore in the shallow area (maximum knee or waist deep).  One of the advantages of winter kitetelemarking is that you can stay close to shore without having the risk of destroying your fins or board.

Normally, the ice is considered safe for any human activities if it is around 10 cm or 4″ deep.  To check the ice thickness, just take an ax and dig a hole in the ice until you reach the water.   The other more obvious sign of safe ice is a snowmobile, car tracks, or fishing huts on ice.  

Any empty snowy field would also work well.

As the pull of the kite is normally lighter than kitesurfing, going upwind on a pair of skis is easy. One of the main bonuses of kitetelemarking is that it’s OK to do it in off-shore wind.  If worse come to worse you can simply depower the kite, pack it and walk back to shore (as long as you have checked the ice condition)

The Kitetelemarking Technique

Before starting, it is recommended that you already have some experience flying a traction kite. If you have never flown a traction kite, please review the Kite piloting and the Kite power controlling sections before proceeding. 

How To Start Kiteskiing?

Snowkite Foils:

  1. Lay your kite on the ground and put enough snow on its trailing edge to keep it in place.
  2. Release the lines from your control bar or handles and attach your safety leash to your wrist or harness.
  3. If you use a closed-cell foil that has pre-inflation valves, open them now to pre-inflate the kite (close the valve after the kite is 1/2 to 3/4 inflated).
  4. Get your boots in your ski binding.
  5. Launch the kite (if you are on the ice, use the edge of your skis to stop yourself from getting dragged downwind).  If you are using a closed-cell foil, make sure you maintain the tension on the front lines to let the wind fill the kite for approximately 60 seconds before launching.
  6. Dive the kite in the direction where you want to go.  You may have to point your skis downwind or in a broad-reach direction first and then turn upwind once you have gathered enough speed.

Traditional Inflatables:

  1. Put the kite down on snow, leading-edge toward the wind, one tip of the kite is on the sand the other tip is in the air.  The kite looks like a vertical “C” with the leading edge facing the wind.  
  2. Fold the kite tip and put enough snow on it to keep it from moving around.
  3. Get in your binding now.
  4. Hold the control bar and position yourself such that the kite is at the wind window edge respective to your position (the kite is either 85 degrees to the left or the right of you with its leading edge facing the wind).
  5. If you use a 4 line inflatable, adjust your trim strap to put the kite in a depowered mode.
  6. Attach the safety leash to your wrist or harness.  Don’t hook in or shackle into your kite until after you have launched your kite.
  7. Use the control bar and the line nearest to the ground to unfold the tip and release the kite from the sand.
  8. Pull the top line (the line farthest from the ground) to move the kite up.
  9. Adjust the trim strap to power up your kite (and shackle in if you normally ride shackled in).
  10. Dive the kite in the direction where you want to go.  You may have to point your skis downwind or in a broad reach direction first and then turn upwind once you have gathered enough speed.

Snowkiting Flat Inflatable:

  • Use the same launching method as traditional inflatable
  • Or
    1. Anchor the chicken loop to a heavy object (your skis, snowboard, kiteboard or a heavy bag of sand).
    2. Go to the kite and launch it at the edge of the wind window.  The kite will just hover there with little or no pull.
    3. Go back to the control bar and attach the safety leash if needed.
    4. Attach the chicken loop to you harness.
    5. Get in your binding.
    6. Pull the top line (the line farthest from the ground) to move the kite up.
    7. Drive the kite in the direction where you want to go.

How To Get Going Kiting On Telemarking Skis

A classic telemarking position
  1. Similar to kitesurfing, if you have enough power to get going, simply lock your kite at 30 – 60 degrees in the forward-moving direction.
  2. If you don’t have enough power, move your kite in a sine wave pattern to get going.
  3. To turn the skis upwind, edge harder and put more pressure on the down-wind ski and bend your knees in the classic telemarking position
  4. To turn the skis downwind, flatten the skis

It’s best to keep a slight telemarking position for stability all the time and keep most of the pressure on the downhill ski for ease of control. 

 If your downwind leg gets tired, you can temporarily shift the pressure to the upwind ski.  If the snow/ice condition is good, you can have a more upright, narrower stance and keep pressure on both skis (60% on downwind ski and 40% on the upwind ski) to go faster.

How To Jibe When Snow-Kiting?

If you use skis, you have to learn how to jibe (which should be trivial if you are already a skier):
  1. Move the kite upward and flatten your skis to move downwind.
  2. It’s best to keep a slight “stem” formation (or the pizza slice formation) of your skis while moving down wind such that you can change the edge of your skis easier.
  3. Dive the kite in the other direction.
  4. Once you start feeling the pull from the kite, slide your new downwind ski forward and bend your knees in the classic telemarking position to turn.
  5. Keep the new upwind ski parallel to the new down wind ski.
  6. Edge hard and hang on to move the skis upwind

How To Jump When Kiteskiing? (Telemarking skis)

Jumping in kitetelemarking is similar to jumping in kitesurfing.  You can either jump with the help of a kicker or jumping with the help of your kite.  Jumping off a kicker is very easy; just go fast toward the kicker and then turn your kite up when you are near the top of the kicker.

Brent jumping off the kicker.

Jumping using the kite is a bit harder as you don’t have the same power from the kite as in kitesurfing; however, the faster speed on skis provides the needed line tension to jump even with less power from the kite.

Up and Away! Photo by Claude. 

If you want to jump high, you should only do that in powder snow as ice and hard-packed snow are not very forgiving.

Jumping in kitetelemarking uses the same techniques as in kitesurfing. Check here for the techniques of jumping in kitesurfing.

How To Tow Another Snowkiter?

This is a family sport where you can go towing your wife/girlfriend or kids behind you.  To tow another skier behind you, just attach a 15′ rope to your harness and a bar at the other end of the rope. 

The towed skier simply holds on to the bar (as in water skiing). The towed skier does not have to learn any special skill except for knowing how to go fast on a pair of downhill skis.  Safety is not an issue as the towed skier is far enough from the kite and can simply drop the towing bar in case of trouble.

Brent on telemark skis towing Hung on snowboard
With a towed skier behind you, trying to make wider radius jibes and always tell the towed skier just before you jibe.

Telemarking Kite Skiing Videos

It seems very hard to find videos of snowkiting with telemarking skis. The closest I got was this well-edited video. I hope you enjoy it!

Want to see our pictures of snowkiting on telemarking skis? Check the 2006 Winterlude event on our website.

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