Last year, the Flysurfer snowkite team spent a week in Alpe d’Huez for the annual IFKO Snowkite Masters competition, one of the biggest French events of the season. This contest crowns the IFKO world champions in the disciplines of both Snowkite Freestyle and Snowkite Race. Located in the central portion of the Western Alps, Alpe d’Huez is an incredibly beautiful ski town at the top of a mountain. However, it’s quite a difficult location for snowkiting because it requires the wind to blow from one specific direction and must come directly up the valley in order to be able to snowkite its primary ski slopes. As it turns out, the Snowkite Masters was very unlucky with wind during the event week. There’s another snowkiting venue on the backside of the mountain that sometimes gets windy, but from below, you have no idea if there is wind up there.

As it turns out, the Snowkite Masters was very unlucky with wind during the event week. There’s another snowkiting venue on the backside of the mountain that sometimes gets windy, but from below, you have no idea if there is wind up there. You can look at the cloud system and watch the mountaintops closely for snow blowing off the peak, but you can never be sure; the only way to find out is to use the lifts to get to the top, then ride down and check the spot for yourself. The valley behind is a nightmare for an event organizer, so it’s not an option to use as a secondary event site. As the contest window opened to just a couple of 30-minute cycles of wind, the struggling weather system seemed to only stir everyone’s frustration.

The Flysurfer team had planned some high mountain sessions outside of the contest, but team members Benoit Miquel and Laurent Guyot needed to stay at the event site for the competition in case the wind picked up. As a result, only cameraman Bas Meerwijk and I were able to focus our attention on the locations in the surrounding mountains. The French snowkite spots are very diverse, filled with woody ascents, steep traverses, flat high-alpine meadows and craggy mountain peaks with amazing scenery in every direction. Bas and I spent our evenings looking at wind forecasts and checking with locals to determine where to explore next. Much of the system requires the presence of the sun, which strengthens the forecasted winds. With some options on the table, we contacted French snowkiters Alex Robin and Jeremie Arache, who are both extremely fit mountaineers as well as very experienced snowkiters and snowkite instructors who spend their winters in the Serre Chevalier valley near Briancon. They were just returning from an overnight trip in the mountains and were excited to meet up. It looked like we had a two-hour window where the forecasted winds for Col du Lautaret’s north face might work to launch our little side adventure… To read the rest of Single Skin Ascent subscribe to Tkb Magazine.

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