The Slingshot Snow Ranger
Slingshot’s Snow Ranger line is a slick looking, middle sized set of quality kites. Focused for the colder side of the kite community, the Snow Ranger has been found to serve all forms of land traction sports. The 2007 models are available in 9 and 12 meters and in two colors, and the Snow Ranger has an advertized 20” carbon control bar and 20m Firewire lines. The kite being reviewed is a 12m, in red, and has a 23” bar of the same model. An all around winner to many, this kite retails at $700 and up. However some deals can be found on factory packages as low as $200!
Made by the well-known Slingshot Company, this kite is the last of their ram-air foil type before moving their production focus toward LEI (Leading Edge Inflatable) kites after 2007. However the Snow Ranger lacked little attention from the creators at Slingshot. The last year of the Snow Ranger’s production was 2007, but Slingshot still provides support and part coverage to owners.
The Snow Ranger Comes with everything you need to fly and transport. Starting with the bag, it says it is large enough to fit two kites in and huff it up a mountain if need be. We agree with it fitting two kites, but both kites would need to be packed tightly and not much larger than 12m. The bag is all black with Slingshot name and logo in silver. Setup like a hiker’s backpack, it includes a waist belt-strap to take the load off your shoulders and one strap across the chest as well. Other features include an exterior water bottle pocket, multiple clips and hook points, and a cut-resistant strap system to attach a snowboard. Only one zip pocket is included. Included with the canopy is a set of pigtails for increased tuning selection as well as a set of line dividers to help ease tangles.
Slingshot’s setup on the carbon bar is top quality. The Snow Ranger uses a molded plastic chickenloop assembly. Named the “Lock ‘n’ Load” System, releasing the chickenloop takes a small tug on a knob, while resetting is quick and simple. Slingshot eliminated the need for hoping and praying that the chickenloop holds when you’re 30 feet up. The kite uses a leash system for full sheeting. When the chickenloop is popped, the bar travels away from you but the leash holds onto the brake/relaunch webbing to sheet the kite out. Quite effective in my opinion. However, use caution as the leash will tend to wrap around the thicker powerline, bar, and chickenloop after consecutive kite loops. The bar itself is wrapped in a well textured, all black grip. Some kites include a bar with a different color wrapping, usually red, in the left hand to prevent reverse steering. Conversely, slingshot put their name and logo under your right hand.
The Ranger’s setup is consistent with bigger foil kites. The Ranger uses a pretty standard foil bridle system. Slingshot worked out a kink and hinted that users should tuck the bridle ends into the Velcro wingtip dirt-outs when packing the kite up and unpacking it to prevent tangles. The kite lines are colored Firewire at 20m lengths and come wound on the bar with a line separator. I recommend bringing many things to weigh down the kite during field setup due to the Ranger’s large size and tendency to pick up in the wind. Hot launches can be dangerous with a 12m foil of any brand so use caution when launching in higher winds to prevent serious yarding!
I find the wind range of the kite to be between 9 mph and 25 mph. Less than that and the kite will have a hard time even lifting off the ground, and higher than that the kite becomes dangerously powerful. Good riding speeds are around 12 to 22 mph. For low wind takeoffs, a hot launch did just fine. The Ranger lifts off smoothly with either a tug of the lead lines or depowering the bar, and began a steady rise up to zenith. The ranger can also be launched from an area more toward the edge of the wind window if need be. This requires a Peter Lynn type launch to do it with one person.
· Position the Ranger laying the ground, bridles up, with one wingtip folded over about a foot and weighted down. Point the other wingtip downwind.
· Position yourself so that the kite is 45 degrees between directly downwind, and the edge of the wind window.
· Keep the bar ¾ depowered, and be ready to steer the kite off the ground when it begins to fill.
· When ready to launch and the lines slightly tight, begin taking steps back to raise the downwind wingtip and inflate the cells.
· As the cells inflate, steer the kite off the ground and toward the edge of the wind window and up to zenith.
With the 23” bar included in some closeout packages, the kite turns well. With a faster turning speed for the kite’s size, and with less bar pressure than similar foils like the frenzy, the Ranger can maneuver fast enough for figure eight pumping and solid boosting. However in lower wind speeds (under 12 or so mph) turning speed reduces greatly, and if the kite moves to the edge of the window it may lack enough turn capability to pull it away from the ground.
The most impressive feature of the Ranger’s flight characteristics is its amount of depower. The Ranger simply has a huge amount of bar throw. This allows the Ranger to fly from fully powered to a complete no lift state. This is a huge help for its size. Generally the Ranger will yank moderately in gusts, but the ability to counter those gusts with depower is a major advantage. Also, I found I rarely need to deploy the chickenloop safety system due to the depower ability. If the rider crashes, just release the bar. This will take the lift away from the kite, and prevent yarding. Pulling in the bar fully doesn’t backstall the kite. It will bring it just under a backstall, producing almost maximum amount of lift. Some riders prefer having the ability to backstall the kite with the bar in order to produce maximum lift when the kite has a large amount of speed. A simple extension modification fixes this problem, and will be described later. The ability to instantly control the full spectrum of lift is a huge plus for the Ranger.
The Ranger has been reviewed as a good lifter for its 12m size. Its jump capabilities are very nice in higher winds, but in lower winds, some rider work needs to be done (pendulum, very hard upwind turns before boosting, etc) in order to get the same effect. Pops go smoothly without too much yanking. Floats are very lengthy with soft touchdowns. Keeping the bar at full power throughout the jump will produce the most distance up, but pulling in the bar fully to pop, reducing the pull slightly on your way up, and then pulling it back in again on your way down will produce the longest float.
The biggest issue with the Ranger is definitely tip tuck. This can be a major problem when first flying the kite. But don’t worry; riders have posted in with tips and modifications to reduce the effects. The stock Ranger is the most susceptible to tip tuck. When at low power bar settings and high kite speed, the kite will sometimes tip tuck without warning, and even fold on itself. This will happen primarily before a boost when the rider will let the power out and allow the kite to pick up kinetic energy (speed). Also, with low kite speed, the Ranger will tip tuck when flown near the edge of the wind window. The solution for both of these problems is to fly the Ranger and get a feel for when it wants to tip tuck. During these times, add slightly more bar pressure. The more bar pressure added, the less the Ranger will tuck in general. When flying on the edge of the window, keep the bar at more than 50 percent powered. If at any time the Ranger tip tucks, fly the kite fully powered for a few seconds to reinflate the tips.
Landing the kite is pretty standard, but be aware that it takes a lot of brake line pulling and some heftier arms to get the Ranger to land directly downwind. I recommend flying the ranger to the edge of the window, and pulling the brake lines there. Less pull, less required strength, less yarding, everyone’s happy…
Some nice modifications have been thrown around about the Ranger. Primarily, the mod to reduce tip tuck. Ranger riders say to extend the length of the leading edge lines with extra power line extensions, or by stacking the included pigtails. The preferable length varies from rider to rider, but somewhere between 10 and 20 cm is doing the trick. Reducing tip tuck immensely while increasing maneuverability, riders boast that, “it flies like a completely different kite”. Use caution though as these extensions reduce the amount of depower possible with the bar throw, and increase the chance of a backstall. This modification works best in medium to higher winds.
The second modification is to the leash system. As mentioned before, the leash will tangle around the chickenloop assembly as well as the power lines and bar after a few kite loops. This begins to hamper the ability to move the bar and even starts to impede on the safety system deployment. So if you find you like to kite loop, or really can’t stand the tangles, there is a solution.
· Attach a small section of kite line, or even a thin cable, to the brake line webbing
· Run that line down with the power lines, through the bar, and past the chickenloop to attach to your harness
· Test your rig to make sure that the safety system functions properly.
For the money, the Slingshot Snow Ranger is a great buy. It provides good lift with decent flying capabilities. My only advice is to learn how to fly the kite and get used to the feel of the Ranger. Don’t get frustrated with early problems. Slingshot is a good company to buy from, and they provided great hardware with the kite. The bar system is simply slick, the kite is quality construction. This kite can let you hang with the best. Don’t pass the opportunity to fly one!