After having so much fun at The Madison, WI- Kites On Ice Festival I was really stoked on snow riding. I decided upon our return to Cape Hatteras to add one more weekend event of snow kiteboarding to my winter before we were in full swing with spring riding on the island. I decided to head up to Burlington VT and the ‘KiteStorm’ Event, which would allow me to have a couple days riding and also catch up with my old friends and family in New England.
Leaving Cape Hatteras is not always the easiest travel. After driving the couple hours to Norfolk to catch a plane and racing through the terminal to check in, it turned out that the flight was delayed… apparently due to the snowstorm that was hanging out in the mid- atlantic and northern states. After about an hour of waiting for the plane to arrive we boarded and then headed north towards our stop in Baltimore.
Landing in Baltimore it was full on winter. Snow on the ground and very windy. Looked like really good snowkite conditions and really horrible for flying/driving. Again, everything was delayed… to the point where they wondered if we would get out at all. Finally, we were able to board the plane, where we again waited while they went through multiple rounds of de-icing, before finally taxiing down for take off.
A short hour and a half later and we were touching down in Manchester, NH in fresh snow. Heading straight for the rental car counter I was glad that I had made a reservation that morning. When she pulled it up to assign the car she realized that they were out of compacts… and so she’d have to give me a mini van instead… for the same price! The Road Trip was on!
As I walked down to pick up the van, I was reminded of something… It is COLD up he-ahh ! A quick exchange with the lot attendant and I was off in my mini van. I was going to head west from Manchester about 45min and stay with a friend in the SW corner of NH. Minutes into the drive, all I could think about was the Storm Chasers Wreck from the original REAL Winter Snowkite Tour. The roads were glazed with fresh snow and it was windy. Travel was at about 25-30mph (in a 55) and multiple cars had already slid off the road on both sides. I figured, if I just went slow and made it, I would be well rewarded with fresh snow and good conditions for the weekends riding.
Waking up, it was a beautiful, sunny, New England winter day. Fresh snow just barely clung to the trees while the sun and it’s reflection made the day blinding and bright. It was cold, but the sun was out, so it was nice. I had about a 3 hour drive ahead of me to reach Burlington, but first, the van needed some packages and some REAL attitude. Packages complete, I hit the road headed north. I was most impressed with the VT highway rest stops. No fast food chains to grope your wallet, but rather a delightfully classy little rest stop, well decorated with a welcoming feel. To make it even better- they had fresh Green Mountain Coffee, in four flavors, prepared on a table next to a donation box. It felt good to be back in New England!
I arrived at the Sandbar Park just before 4pm on Friday. Not even seeing the marsh grass swaying, I was impressed to see kites in the sky as I rounded the corner on the causeway. About 8-10 kites- all foils except for one yellow blimp. I quickly pulled in and suited up, hoping to catch a bit of a session before darkness settled. I raced out onto the ice with my gear and started pumping. As I was pumping I looked up to a familiar face- REAL coach and BEST teamrider Noel Jambor was standing there, holding a 17m Tempest… and he was stoked about the riding. While it felt like there was zero breeze on the ice, I guess up a bit higher it was blowing.
I launched my kite- the new Slingshot Machine 17.5 and was amazed at the pull it had as it went up. Tighten the straps on my bindings and I was off. The conditions were perfect! There was about 4-6 inches of loose snow over a hardpacked snow base. Soft to ride on, but still solid enough to edge into. The breeze, while light, was happening and I had no trouble cruising around, riding upwind etc. As I made my way upwind a bit, I noticed that someone had built a small kicker. Even though only about knee high, this kicker made all the difference and gave us something so aim for and throw tricks off of. As it has been so long since I have sessioned snow, it took a bit of adapting to get some maneauvers. As the sun set into an amazing display of purple and orange light in the clouds I was figuring it out. By then the time I was ready to go for the day I had the confidence to try some unhooked and grabbed moves and was able to (just barely) land a tail grabbed, unhooked, front roll-front kiteloop. Stoked, I headed in for the day, excited about the weekend and the riding we would have over the next few days.
After heading back to my buddies place for dinner, I convinced him that even though we were both tired, we had to go out and at least do some nightlife scouting. We started at my buddies favorite spot, the 3 Needs for a quality local (from the basement) brewed beer. Finishing up, we decided to go for some live tunes and headed down the street towards Nectars. I was amazed that there were so many people waiting in lines when it was so cold. I was just barely surviving exposed to it and I was wearing both my REAL Team Fleece and Snorkel Jacket! A short wait in line and we were in to Nectars enjoying some live jazz funk guitar and a nice scene. A few drinks, some quality people watching and we headed home for some sleep.
I guess it was about noon that I arrived at the event site. Wow! This place got crowded overnight! The parking lot at the Sandbar Park was maxed out, I had to take a semi legal spot right on the end of the row. The event coordinators from Stormboarding really did a good job at getting people out for the event. There had to be at least 80 kites on the ice and a few hundred people there to check it all out. This sport is about to go off in this area, more so than many others, because of the type of people. People around here are young and active and so many already have the right clothing and ski’s and snowboards. All they need is a little training, a kite and they’re ready!
The first step of the day was to go through registration. The people here, as they are all over New England, were very nice, cheerful and helpful while getting everyone signed in. There were a number of scheduled clinics from beginning kite flying to more advanced riding and jumping clinics. It seemed they really did a good job of planning it out so that they could introduce the sport to a lot of new people, while also having things for the more experienced riders. A few kite reps came out to support the event, including a crew from Peter Lynn as well as Brian and Heather from Ozone. I’ve got to just say- I think Brian and Heather must be the two hardest working people in snowkiting in this country! They travel to every event and work all weekend to support their sport and local dealers. They come early and always have a nice set up and then work all day to get people on new kites. They were out all weekend demo-ing their popular Frenzy and Samurai 4 Line Snow Kites.
Looking at the lake, it seemed as if the breeze was still a bit light, with only a few people riding. It seemed like perfect time to build a kicker. I grabbed my Slingshot Snow Shovel from my pack and headed up wind of the action to find a place for the kicker that would keep us from landing on people’s heads or kites. Billy from Island Surf/Sail came out with me and for about an hour and a half, we shoveled snow into a pile, while Noel rode up and over it to establish the angle and shape for hitting it with a kite. A little bit more work and were done… just as the breeze started to pick up.
I raced back to where I had my gear at the Ozone tent and began pumping up. Oh how I love One-Pump. It makes for such a more enjoyable experience, even when pumping up a large kite like the Slingshot Machine 17.5m. After quickly connecting the lines and getting a launch, I was off for a day of quality riding.
The breeze was light. So light that an inflated blimp wouldn’t even slide across the snow.. but rather would just sit there. Yet, I only had to dive my kite once and set an edge to be able to go almost straight into the wind. I am not going to make this a philly on the new Slingshot Machine and how amazing it flys, turns, jumps and performs in such light wind, better than all the other kites in the sky, etc, etc… (I will save those details for another full review later). Instead, it would make more sense to talk about the riding.
I was glad to see a solid crew of experienced riders come out to check out our kicker. Seems that it doesn’t matter who you are, foil or blimp, skiis or snowboard, everyone loved the kicker! I am horrible with names, so you guys will have to forgive me, but there were a a few riders on skiis on both Ozone Frenzy’s and Cabrinha inflatable’s who I had met before at the Kites On Ice. These guys seem to truly know how to have fun and were charging it all weekend. In addition to them, Noel and Billy were charging it and throwing down all day as well.
I was trying to adapt my Hatteras wake style to the snow and kicker situation and actually had a really great time. While the techniques and ability to generate pop are a bit different on the snow I was able to adapt and have fun. I spent most of my day throwing big unhooked frontrolls, raley’s, boost 360 grabs, backroll to reverts and a few of the unhooked tailgrab front-fronts that I have come to love so much. Such a different feeling being 8-10 feet above solid ground while holding the bar as it powers through the loop and holding the board with the other hand. YEAH! This stuff is fun! We were having so much fun that we just couldn’t stop riding until dark. Just like on Friday, the breeze seemed to get bit better right before dark and we were rewarded with an even more amazing sunset. By the time I got off the ice it was dark and cold. I was racing frostbite just to get changed and into the truck.
After the event on Saturday there was a party at a local place called The Monkeybar. Apparently they had a great time. Unfortunately, I missed the event party as I had prior dinner plans with some of my College friends from Maine. By the time we were ready to go out, it was about 11pm, but it was Mardi-Gras weekend in Burlington, so we did head out to check it out.
Starting again at the 3 Needs, my buddy’s favorite place in town, we were greated by the festive crowds in Burlington. Seemed like this was the night and a lot of people were out. After finishing the first round for warm up, we headed out to stand in a line for a more happening place. We ended up at the Red Square and hung out with some nice young college students while waiting in line. Once inside, we were greeted to a cool place, with a live band and 2 bars. I quickly noticed that they stocked both the Mount Gay and Countreau needed to make a Manatini. That was my order and after the second we were feeling quite good! We hung out for the rest of the evening enjoying Burlington’s social atmosphere. A couple slices of pizza on the way home and we retired for the night.
This morning we woke up a bit late and sore. I was feeing almost every muscle in my body and they all ached. Oh so sore. We were beaten and hungry, so we headed back to town too grab some breakfast. My buddy took us to Nectars.. yes the same place we saw a show at the night before. This place is pretty badass and is a Burlington classic, made famous by many, including being one of the local breeding grounds for the band Phish. The cool thing about this place (even though it is small) is that it has the bar side and a food side. Both are open all night, but the retaurant is open again for breakfast. Their specialty claim is their ‘Do it Yourself Bloody Mary Bar’, where they’ve got the pool table covered with a plywood table and on it are 3 variety’s of Bloody Mary Mix, every type of hot, Worcester, clam or other sauce you could imagine, a bowl full of celery stocks and all of the spices you would ever need. While I was not that into it, I watched as many a local student enjoyed the bar in the am, as much as they had the night before.
Leaving Nectars it was time to head to the event. Another beautiful blue sky, sunny day awaited and the wind had picked up a little bit (maybe to 8-10). Arriving at the park, I was stoked to see about 50 kites in the air. On the ice, a crowd was gathering for an intro clinic and people looked stoked to be getting into the sport. Fulfilling my obligations, I walked around for an hour or so taking some pictures, so that I’d have something to post here. After getting a couple shots of the scene, I headed out to the kicker we’d made the day before to try and get some riding shots.
With the wind a bit better, the action was really picking up. Noel and Billy were killing it on their Best Tempest snowkites. Noel was getting some nice air, grabs, spins and the occasional backroll kite loop, while Billy was busy laying down some wake style, with laid out raleys and some blind landings. The guys on ski’s were having a great time as well, and getting some nice air and spins.
After shooting for a bit, Noel offered to thow me a launch and take my camera to grab some shots. Yeah! I quickly rigged the Machine and hit it. I was addicted to the kicker…and the nice thing about snow is that you only have to ride about 100 meters past the landing to work your way up to hit it again, from the other direction. This allows kicker die-hards to just go back and forth across about 200m and hit the kicker from both directions with each pass, I had the most fun trying to adapt my Hatteras riding style and get in some unhooked moves. I was able to land the front-fronts, a couple with grabs, big lofty 360 grabbed front, raleys and backroll to reverts into the surface pass. I just kept hitting it and trying moves.
It’s funny, because as everyone packed up and was leaving we were treated to the best sunset of the weekend…. And the breeze started to pick up. Everyone else had left and they were just taking down the tents. I was finally powered enough to get speed and pop for tricks on the flats, without the kicker. I cruised around like I was coming downwind in “The Slick”, throwing alternate front and backrolls and raley’s. Just before the sun was gone, I noticed a photographer taking some shots, so I cruised back up to the kicker so that he had the chance to get some good pics. In the end, I threw one last grabbed, unhooked front roll front kite loop and was finally spent and couldn’t hold on. The bar was ripped from my grasp and I hit the ground wondering how the One-Line “Center of the Universe” leash on the Machine would work. Happily for me, the system deployed perfectly and the kite gently fell to the snow and sat ready for realaunch… but I was all done.
All in all I thought this was a great weekend! Beautiful blue skies, perfect snow and a light but consistent breeze. I would like to thank the organizers of the event- Rachel and James from Stormboarding for putting on the event and bringing all of the local and regional snow kiters together to share such a great weekend. This was such great intro to the sport for so many people! The location and set up here is perfect and as the sport grows, I can see this becoming one of the larger, more fun weekends on the winter snow tour. A big thanks to Kish, Jeff, Aaron, Mira and the Crew at Slingshot for getting us the Machine 17.5m, before the event, which was amazing and the kite I rode all weekend!
For anyone who lives in New England and wants to get some riding in, the conditions are perfect in Burlington and throughout most of the northern states and should provide a few more good weeks of riding before the season is over! For me, I will be riding long downwinders in the ocean back home in Cape Hatteras, but will definitely try to make it back up north next year for the Kitestorm!