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What do you get if you cross a kite with snow?

Pascal Nessier (37), snowkiting instructor and founder of the Swiss Snowkiting School, talks about the fascination of his sport.

Text: Clau Isenring

What is snowkiting?

Snowkiting is a sport in which you’re pulled across snow or ice by a power kite while riding a snowboard or wearing skis.

How is snowkiting different to kitesurfing on water?

It takes a lot less wind to drive a board across snow: around 12 km an hour is enough. Snowkiting is easier than kitesurfing, because you stand on skis or a snowboard instead of on a wobbly board on the water. Beginners progress quickly.

How long does it take to learn to snowkite?

Beginners usually get to grips with the kite and are able to have it pull them along after a one-day taster course. I recommend a two-day course to really familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of the sport. Most participants are surprised by how quickly they learn to handle the kite.

Where’s best for beginners to learn to snowkite?

A wide, flat area is ideal for beginners. Our centre is based on the Simplon, which offers perfect conditions. With a little practice, you’ll soon be able to tackle the slopes. You no longer need to use ski lifts. Once you reach the top, you simply pack your kite into your rucksack and enjoy the descent. Or you can snowkite back down again. This is known as “backcountry kiting” and is becoming increasingly popular with tour riders.

“With a little practice, you’ll soon be able to tackle the slopes. You no longer need to use ski lifts.”

And for more advanced snowkiters?

There are many excellent locations in the Swiss Alps and in the Jura. However, snowkites are not really welcome on official ski slopes. It’s important to make sure there are no power lines or other obstructions nearby. You need space, wind and at least 20 to 30 cm of snow, depending on what the surface is like. You’ll find the best spots and the latest weather forecasts at www.unhooked.ch – for kitesurfing on the water in summer and snowkiting in the winter.  

Who can try snowkiting?

There are no limitations really – the age of our course participants ranges from 12 to 75.  A normal level of fitness is all that’s needed. It helps if you’ve skied or snowboarded before. Practice kites only have a surface area of 2m2, so beginners will be a bit slower than advanced kiters who use bigger kites to go faster.

How much does a kite cost?

Kites start at around CHF 800. However, if you want to kite regularly, you’ll need to buy both a big and small kite to cope with various wind conditions. You can also rent equipment. Advanced kitesurfers can rent equipment straight after completing a conversion course (from water to snow).