Brent is kitetelemarking in a classic telemark position
Once kiteskiing become more and more popular, some telemark enthusiastics
start asking "can I use my telemark skis with the kite". The answer is
a resounding "yes". Modern telemark skis and boots are pretty strong
and provide more than enough support for kitetelemarking. Some of the
modern telemark bindings can even release automatically similar to downhill
But why kitetelemarking? The answer is not quite straight forward
as kiteskiing or kitesnowboarding. While telemarking is a hybrid of
cross country skiing and downhill skiing, kitelemarking is simply a more
stylish version of kiteskiing. With telemark skis, the kiter can get
in a the classic telemark position which looks more solid and very stylish
compared to the normal kiteskiing position. So if you want to do it
with style then kitetelemarking is for you!
Besides, with telemark skis, the kiter is more flexible and more mobile
when the kite is down. Similarly, telemark skis are more suitable when
you want to go out kiting with the family and tow your kids behind you on their toboggans or on
their skis. Similar to kiteskiing, kitetelemarking is so easy to learn that if your kids already
feel comfortable on telemark skis, they can learn kitetelemarking with a small kite.
Kitetelemarking is easier than kitesurfing so if you live in a colder climate and want to
get into kitesurfing, don't wait until spring, go kitetelemarking now! The skill you
learn in kitetelemarking will be very useful in kitesurfing.
(The pine tree in the background on the right is the jump-over target)
To go kitetelemarking you need the following equipment
- A traction kite, lines and associated control device. Any land or water kite can
be used for kitetelemarking. Inflatable kites can also be used
for kitetelemarking especially the new Flat Inflatable (Flat LEI or bow kites)
which can relaunch very easy on snow. For classic inflatable
kites, you may want to rig up a 5th line to
facilitate relaunching on snow. In very cold days, it is wise to pump
up the struts indoor such that you only have to pump up the leading edge
Similar to kitesurfing, make sure you have a safety release system that you can depower
the kite at any moment. Furthermore, you may want to use a kite that provides
good depowering capability such that you don't have to stop and change to a smaller or larger
kite as frequent. Similar to kitesurfing, you would need a number of kites to cover
the whole wind range.
- A pair of telemark skis. As a rule-of-thumb, use modern telemark
skis as they are both stronger and some modern telemark bindings can release
automatically similar to downhill bindings. Check out
http://telemarkski.com for online
- A pair of modern telemark boots.
- A kitesurfing or windsurfing harness (waist or seat harness is fine).
- A helmet (a must on ice or hard pack as you don't want to test the "rigidity"
of your skull when it hits the ice).
- If you do a lot of jumping on hard pack or ice, protect your body with a wakeboard
impact vest with elbow and knee pads or simply use the same protection equipment that a
hockey player uses.
- Warm clothing. You normally need less warm clothing kitetelemarking than
skiing. It's best to use layers such that you can take off some layers when it
gets too warm.
- A good pair of thin yet warm mitten. Don't use glove as your fingers can get cold
rapidly. You may want to use a pair of thin inner gloves in case
you have to use your hand to work on the lines.
So how big a kite you need for kitetelemarking? As snow and ice have much less
friction than water, you should use a smaller kite as you would for kitesurfing (on the
average, about 2/3 of the size you would use for kitesurfing; smaller on ice - 1/2 - and
larger on powder snow - 3/4). If you fly the kite straight over head, you should be
able to feel the pull from the kite and be able to walk backward with some reasonable
effort. If you feel the kite lift around 1/3 of your weight and can barely walk
backward then you have more power than you would need for kitetelemarking.
The best place to kitetelemark is probably a frozen lake. Just make sure you have
checked the ice condition. In early or late season, the ice condition may be
conditional, so it's wise to stay close to shore in the shallow area (maximum knee or
waist deep). One of the advantage of winter kitetelemarking is such that you can stay
close to shore without having the risk of destroying your fins or board.
Normally, the ice is considered safe for any human activities such as walking or
kitetelemarking if it is around 10 cm or 4" deep. To check the ice thickness, just
take an axe and dig a hole in the ice until you reach the water. The other more
obvious sign of safe ice is snowmobile, car tracks or fishing huts on ice. These vehicles need
ice thicker than kitetelemarking (normally they need 8" to 12" around 2 to
3 times as thick as we need).
Any empty snowy field would work well.
As the pull of the kite is normally lighter than kitesurfing, going upwind on a pair of
skis is easy. One of the main bonus of kitetelemarking is that it's OK to
kitetelemark in off-shore
wind. If worse come to worse you can simply depower the kite, pack it and walk back
to shore (as long as you have checked the ice condition)
Before starting to learn kitetelemarking, it is recommended that you
already have some experience flying a traction kite. If you have never
flown a traction kite, please review the
Kite piloting and the Kite power controlling
sections before proceeding.
How To Start?
- Lay your kite on the ground and put enough snow on its trailing edge
to keep it in place.
- Release the lines from you control bar or handles and attach your
safety leash to your wrist or harness.
- If you use a closed-cell foil that has pre-inflation valves, open them
now to pre-inflate the kite (close the valve after the kite is 1/2 to
- Get your boots in your ski binding.
- Launch the kite (if you are on ice, use the edge of your skis to stop
yourself from getting dragged downwind). If you are using a closed
cell foil, make sure you maintain the tension on the front lines to let
the wind fill the kite for approximately 60 seconds before launching.
- Dive the kite in the direction where you want to go. You may
have to point your skis down wind or in a broad-reach direction first
and then turn upwind once you have gather enough speed.
- Put the kite down on snow, leading edge toward the wind, one tip
of the kite is on the sand the other tip is in the air. The
kite looks like a vertical "C" with the leading edge facing the
- Fold the kite tip and put enough snow on it to keep it from
- Get in you binding now.
- Hold the control bar and position yourself such that kite is at
the wind window edge respective to your position (the kite is either
85 degrees to the left or the right of you with its leading edge
facing the wind).
- If you use a 4 line inflatable, adjust your trim strap to put
the kite in a depowered mode.
- Attach the safety leash to your wrist or harness. Don't
hook in or shackle in to your kite until after you have launched you
- Pull on the control bar and the line nearest to the ground to
unfold the tip and release the kite from the sand.
- Pull the top line (the line farthest from the ground) to move
the kite up.
- Adjust the trim strap to power up your kite (and shackle in if
you normally ride shackled in).
- Dive the kite in the direction where you want to go. You
may have to point your skis down wind or in a broad reach direction
first and then turn upwind once you have gather enough speed.
- Use the same launching method as traditional inflatable
- anchor the chicken loop to a heavy object (your skis, snowboard,
kiteboard or a heavy bag of sand).
- Go to the kite and launch it at the edge of the wind window.
The kite will just hover there with little or no pull.
- Go back to the control bar and attach the safety leash if
- Attach the chicken loop to you harness.
- Get in your binding.
- Pull the top line (the line farthest from the ground) to move
the kite up.
- Drive the kite in the direction where you want to go.
How To Get Going?
A classic telemarking position
- Similar to kitesurfing, if you have enough power to get going, simply
lock your kite at 30 - 60 degrees in the forward moving direction.
- If you don't have enough power, move your kite in a sine wave pattern
to get going.
- To turn the skis upwind, edge harder and put more pressure on the
down-wind ski and bend your knees in the classic telemarking position
- To turn the skis downwind, flatten the skis
It's best to keep a slight telemarking position for stability all the
time and keep most of the pressure on the downhill ski for ease of control.
If your down wind leg get tired, you can temporarily shift the pressure to
the up wind ski. If the snow/ice condition is good, you can have a
more upright, narrower stance and keep pressure on both skis (60% on down
wind ski and %40 on up wind ski) to go faster.
How To Jibe?
If you use skis, you have to learn how to jibe (which should be trivial
if you are already a skier):
- Move the kite upward and flatten your skis to move downwind.
- It's best to keep a slight "stem" formation (or the pizza slice
formation) of your skis while moving down wind such that you can change
the edge of your skis easier.
- Dive the kite in the other direction.
- Once you start feeling the pull from the kite, slide your new downwind
ski forward and bend your knees in the classic telemarking position to
- Keep the new upwind ski parallel to the new down wind ski.
- Edge hard and hang on to move the skis upwind
How To Jump?
Jumping in kitetelemarking is similar to jumping in kitesurfing.
You can either jump with the help of a kicker or jumping with the help of
your kite. Jumping off a kicker is very easy in kitetelemarking; just
go fast toward the kicker and then turn your kite up when you are near the
top of the kicker.
Brent jumping off the kicker
Jumping using the kite is a bit harder as
you don't have the same power from the kite as in kitesurfing; however, the faster speed
on skis provides the needed line tension to jump even with less power from the kite.
"Up and Away"
Photo by Claude
If you want to jump high in kitetelemarking, you should only do that in powder snow as ice
and hard packed snow are not very forgiving.
Jumping in kitetelemarking uses the same techniques as in kitesurfing. Check
here for the techniques of jumping in kitesurfing.
How To Tow Another Skier?
Kitetelemarking is a family sport where you can go kitetelemarking and towing your wife/girl
friend or kids behind you. To tow another skier behind you, just attach a 15' rope
to your harness and a bar at the other end of the rope. The towed skier simply hold
on to the bar (as in water skiing). The towed skier does not have to learn any
special skill except for knowing how to go fast on a pair of down hill skis. Safety
is not an issue as the towed skier is far enough from the kite and can simply drop the
towing bar in case of trouble.
Brent on telemark skis towing Hung on snowboard
With a towed skier behind you, trying to make wider radius jibes and always tell the
towed skier just before you jibe.
Kitetelemarking Picture and Videos
Kitetelemarking at Winterlude 2006
Want to see more pictures and videos of kitetelemarking? Check the
2006 Winterlude event.