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Erin Swain: Powder Days!

Erin Swain has been writing about her experiences learning to snowkite. We will continue to bring you updates from Erin about her experiences throughout the season. You can follow Erin’s blog at http://www.thekiteboarder.com/tag/erin-swain/

Today was an interesting start to my snowkiting adventure. Out here in Colorado, we have been getting dumped on!  POWDER DAYS have been plentiful- which for me means my legs are shot from all the sick runs over the past three days. I woke up thinking I need a day off from the mountain, and I get a text from Anton (my snowkite mentor from Colorado Kite Force) that reads “It’s really windy today! More like white out.” I decided to have zero expectations of these conditions since I have gotten skunked a few times out here. I pack my gear up and head east over Vail Pass. It’s snowing out and trucks are pulled over and required to put chains on. As I approach the pass (now driving with my hazards on at about 25 mph), I start thinking this is insane…what am I thinking?? I took this sport up as a ‘fair weather’ kiter, and this is a scary white-out…

After driving 25 mph over Vail Pass, I made it safely over to Lake Dillon and grabbed my gear. The first thing I noticed was that it was blowing! I immediately became nervous as Anton told me not to use my 7m, that he brought a 5.5m for me. My face was starting to get wind burned so I put on my face mask. My old buddy Gary from a few weeks back kites over to me as I am running out my lines and says “Be careful today Erin! Just remember where your ‘Oh Shit’ strap is.  You can always get a new kite, not a new one of you!”  Crap. I am now even more nervous.


Anton is giving a lesson to someone, but tells me he is going to help me launch my kite and go over some things since it’s been a while. Yey Anton!  I would not be out here if it weren’t for him! He shows me how to pull my outside line to bring the kite about, and then how to launch from there.  He also showed me how to land the kite safely by bringing it to the edge of the wind window, pulling the center lines which brings the kite closer to me, and then finding the top line and giving it a good yank to flip the kite on its backside so it’s safely landed and won’t re-launch.  He showed me three times, which is kind of what it takes for it to sink in with me.

Then it was my time to fly.  The wind was blowing so it was really easy for me to get the kite in the air.  This is a relief since the last few times, the wind was light and I was struggling.   hat was not easy was remembering how to dive it down and pull in on the bar with not to much resistance on the lines. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time (which I still can’t do). There’s a lot going on, and then you have to worry about board position.

I took my kite to the top and then I soared it down  to the right, getting up on my board on the right side (my dominant side since I am goofy footed) pretty easily.  And then I saw it: The Dreaded Creek. Shit! I kept the kite at 12 o’clock and then it came crashing down. I remained outside the creek, so I was happy.  And safe.

It’s really tough to learn that in the water  12 o’clock kite position is safe, but in the mountains, it’s dangerous. So, I have to keep remembering that.  Also, when flying a trainer, I was so used to bringing the kite back and forth across the sky, and now I am finding this is a very bad practice. I accidentally zoom my kite to the left across the wind window without my board in proper position and just face plant toeside down crashing the kite. Whoops! My bad!

That was pretty scary, so I don’t want that to happen again. It does happen again. Three times that session.  One was a really good digger where I accidentally pulled in on the bar so I launched about 5′ in the air and 15′ forward.  Don’t worry though, it felt like 1′ out until Anton pointed out my tracks in the snow.

I did end up picking up the sport a little more after a bit.  I went right and left across the lake (well the field next to the lake, cause the lake had quite a bit of powder in it). It felt amazing to be gliding across back and forth without crashing the kite! I loved it. I glided across back and forth a dozen times without crashing.  I also was able to transition from one side to the other without sitting down. I used the ‘falling leaf’ method with my board whenever I wanted to change directions. You need to point your board toward the kite in the direction you want to go before diving the kite down. Although I felt very stoked to be doing well, I I did feel that scared adrenaline rush after a good digger.

After my last real good wipe out, I sat feeling happy with my progress, yet my quads were burning and my body was tired. I decided that it was time to call it a day…afterall, I felt good about what I had learned and didn’t want to get hurt. Then Anton came over to me and told me I should get a pic of me with the pink foil kite (that was the guy taking the lesson’s kite).  What girl can say no to pink???

OK I guess  since the kite is pink I can try it. So I take the foil kite and Anton explains how the kite is different. It is really weird, I have to really work the kite to get it to pull me.  Wayyyy more so than with the inflated kite I was using.  I get up and riding and feel good on the foil kite. I came back exactly where Anton told me to!  YEY! I still don’t understand the differences, but I would like to explore the foil kites a bit more.

I was so happy with all I learned this time that I can’t wait to go again. I even asked some of the guys about going back country on Vail Pass. They said that going on a mountain pass is a bit much for a beginner because the wind is going too many directions.  There is one area that is back country and beginner friendly called the flattops. I hope to venture out that way soon. ..Until next time…

Erin currently lives in Colorado’s Vail Valley with her rescue dog, Willy. She’s passionate about surfing, snowboarding, snowkiting, yoga, and food&wine.  She is always ready to try new experiences, travel, and spends her time loving her active lifestyle.

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