Snowkiting or Kite skiing is an outdoor winter sport where people use kite power to glide on snow or ice. The sport is similar to water-based kiteboarding, but with the footwear used in snowboarding or skiing.The principes of using the kite is the same, but in different terrain. In the early days of snowkiting, foil kites were the most common type; nowadays many kiteboarders use inflatable kites. However, since 2013, newly developed racing foil kites seem to dominate speed races and expedition races, like Red Bull Ragnarok (held on the Norwegian Hardangervidda plateau) and the Vake mini-expedition race (held at Norway’s most northern Varanger peninsula). Snowkiting differs from other alpine sports in that it is possible for the snowkiter to travel uphill and downhill with any wind direction. Like kiteboarding, snowkiting can be very hazardous and should be learned and practiced with care. Snowkiting is becoming increasingly popular in places often associated with skiing and snowboarding, such as Russia, Canada, Iceland, France, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden and the Northern and Central United States. The sport is becoming more diverse as adventurers use kites to travel great distances and sports enthusiasts push the boundaries of freestyle, big air, speed and back country exploration.
In the mid-1980s e.g. some alpine skiers used a rebridled square parachute to ski upwind on a frozen bay in Erie, PA. In the late 1990s small groups of French and North American riders started pushing the boundaries of modern freestyle snowkiting. The Semnoz crew from France began hosting events at the Col du Lautaret and other European sites where the mountainous terrain lent itself to “paragliding” down the hills. In North America, riders were mainly riding snow-covered lakes and fields where tricks were being done on the flat ground, jumps, rails and sliders.
As a child Dieter Strasilla, inspired by Otto Lilienthal, practiced gliding around Berchtesgaden and in the 1960s he began parapente experiments (also with his brother Udo in USA) in Germany and Switzerland, parachute-skiing in 1972 and later perfected a kiteskiing system using self-made paragliders and a ball-socket swivel allowing the pilot to kitesail upwind or uphill, but also to take off into the air at will, swivelling the body around to face the right way.
Kiteskiers began kiteskiing on many frozen lakes and fields in the US midwest and east coast. Lee Sedgwick and a group of kiteskiers in Erie, PA were early ice/snow kiteskiers. In 1982 Wolf Beringer started developing his shortline Parawing system for skiing and sailing. This was used by several polar expeditions to kite-ski with sleds, sometimes covering large distances.Ted Dougherty began manufacturing ‘foils’ for kiteskiing and Steve Shapson of Force 10 Foils also began manufacturing ‘foils’ using two handles to easily control the kite. In the mid-1980s Shapson, while icesailing, took out an old two line kite and tried to ski upwind on a local frozen lake in Wisconsin. Shapson demonstrated the sport of ‘kiteskiing’ in Poland, Germany, Switzerland,Turkey and Finland. He also used grass skis to kiteski on grassy fields. Early European kiteskiers were Keith Stewart and Theo Schmidt, who also was among the first to waterski with kites. American Cory Roeseler together with his father William developed a Kiteski system for waterskiing and began winning in windsurf races featuring high following winds, such as in the gorge of the Columbia river. The following terms describe the sport of ‘Traction Kiting’ or some refer to as ‘Power Kiting’: Kite buggying, kite skiing, kitesurfing and kite landboarding.