There are some snowkite spots that have a special appeal. Sometimes it’s a local spot that only works with a particular wind direction. Other times it’s a remote backcounty location thats rarely sessioned. Some spots are so huge and have so much potential that it feels as if the kiting is unlimited — 360 degrees of soft powder. Then there are the spots that have terrain features that work so well that hitting them is like an insatiable addiction.
Recently, I was able to session one of my special places: Monida Pass on the Idaho-Montana border. For a park-n-ride spot the quality of Monida feels limitless. The backcountry, unseen from the highway, is so big that one can kite for many, many miles and still hardly scratch the surface of Monida’s potential.My first day, I got up early and made the four hour drive mostly in the dark. I arrived at the spot a little after sunrise and knew I would have a full day of kiting Monida’s untracked bowls and canyons. My first session, I flew my 15m Ozone Summit v4 UL and was fully overpowered. After two hours of rapid uphill speed and instantaneous power, I brought out the 10m Summit and felt much more in sync with the 25(35+)mph wind. All day I made my way, looping up the powder covered hills and ripping down every deposition area I could find. At the top of each lap I would park the wing off to the side, depowered just enough, and let gravity and my skis take over the descent.
As the day wore on I refueled with some hot snacks in my camper and set out again for a third and final sunset session. By the end of the afternoon, I was feeling the deep fatigue of so many miles of untracked powder and so many boosts off the abundant wind lips. From there it was a short drive to the nearest bar, The Peat in Lima. The Peat is a classic Montana bar and it’s also unique; everyone cooks their own steaks and burgers on a massive central grill. I went for a thick Montana ribeye, medium rare, and then crashed in my camper for a well earned night’s sleep.The following two days were a continuation of the first. Fully lit 10m conditions prevailed both days, new snow fell and on day three, a friend arrived to share in the powder. As a team, we could now use our snow machines to venture into the back side of Monida, the limitless Centennial Valley. The level of commitment increases when one ‘goes long’ with sleds and it is important to be properly prepared and have one’s setup dialed. My friend’s preparation was adequate, but not quite perfect. As a result he had a variety of minor mishaps that, while funny after the fact, could have been serious catastrophes had they not been contained. Nonetheless, we definitely scored an ‘epic’ that next day: bluebird skies, powerful wind and miles of untracked powder.My final day was foreboding. Sub-zero air was surging south fast from Canada. When that northern push arrived it would shut down the wind that had been working so well. With calm conditions reporting on the meters, we were slow to go back to Monida, waiting and hoping winds would improve. Eventually we made our move and upon our arrival, like a light switch, a southern katabatic kicked in.
The rock steady downsloping wind was steady at 17mph and that meant that it’s time for the 15m Ozone Chrono v2. Flying this wing I feel almost invincible, it’s as if nothing can stop me from having maximum fun! Steady wind coupled with the Chrono makes uphill travel so effortless: Lock it into its sweet spot and it’s like a massive diesel engine of power. I quickly left my friend far behind and enjoyed a sick solo session cutting up all the untracked pow I could find. Making the session even more amazing was the herd of Elk that was hanging around the kite spot. They did not know what to make of us and eventually headed off into the distance. Ultimately the northern push arrived, temperatures went from 17 above zero to 17 below, snow arrived and the wind shut down. This was my cue to head home after another successful kite trip.
Words by Noah Poritz
Look for Noah Poritz’s latest article on Montana’s wild and wonderful backcountry in the winter 2016 issue of Tkb. Now available.