Snowkite Vs. Downhill Snowboards

16 Oct 2006

There are a growing number of snowkite specific boards being advertised. Here's a list of companies that are developing snowkite boards:




Snowkite-specific boards are being created because downhill snowboards are not designed with snowkiting in mind... and thus they don't suit snowkiters' needs very well.


Snowkiting is different from downhill snowboarding in the following ways (there are more, but these are a few things relating to snowboards):


Weight & Leaning:
In downhill, you'll find your weight distributed further forward (depending on snow depth and terrain steepness). With a snowkite, your weight is more likely to be distributed back toward your trailing foot. This becomes more pronounced the softer and deeper the snow layer gets. For example, if you're on ice, you don't have to worry about the snowboard tip dipping below the snow (because there is no snow). If you're in some deep powder however, you need to lean on your back foot and use all your apparent weight (your true weight minus the kite's vertical lift) to keep the back tip of the board down and the forward tip above the snow. Although this is true for down-hill, leaning on your trailing foot becomes much more important with a kite.


Heel-Side Edge Lean:
In downhill you'll use your toe-side edge often. On the flip side, you'll use your heel-side edge most of the time while you're snowkiting. This is because you'll need to lean back against the pull of the kite while snowkiting and use your heel-side edge to maintain a direction perpendicular to the kite's pull. As you build experience, you'll use your toe-side edge for transitions and more. But you'll still spend most of the time on your heel-edge.


Board Stiffness:
Board stiffness needs to be greater on a snowboard used for snowkiting. Here's a metaphor: imagine a sailboat. A sailboat's keel is used to keep the boat's course despite the wind pushing from other directions. The keel is strong & stiff which allows the sailboat to maintain direction. If the keel was flexible, the wind and water currents would force it to change shape and the boat wouldn't be able to cut straight through the water. The same is true in snowkiting. A stiff board maintains shape and allows the snowkiter to cut across the snow in the desired direction---like a keel. Wind doesn't affect a downhill snowboarder like it does a snowkiter, so stiffness can be decreased to improve other areas of performance.


Since a snowkiter uses his/her edge to travel in a straight line (again, to move perpendicular to the pull of the kite), he/she doesn't normally want that edge to force a turn. Traditional snowboards are designed with an hour-glass shape so that the combined flex and shape of the board will assist in turning. Snowboard that are better for snowkiting will normally have less sidecut. Some people hold different oppinions on this issue.


Snowkiters tend to use both tips of the snowboard more often than downhill snowboarders do. Snowkiters are normally facing downwind and moving left or right, remaining on the heel-side edge and switching which tip leads. (For snowkiting, set your bindings so that you feel equally comfortable traveling in both directions.)


Although some people might add-to, subtract-from, or disagree-with some of the above ideas, they generally outline the difference between downhill snowboarding and snowkiting. Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the factors influencing snowkite-specific snowboard designs.


All said, you can use a downhill snowboard to snowkite. I recommend a stiff, twin-tip board. Set the bindings to "ducky" style. Less side cut is better, but you don't need a perfectly straight edge.