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Kitetelemarking in a classic telemark position

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 ski bindings.

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 Equipment

(The pine tree in the background on the right is the jump-over target)

To go kitetelemarking you need the following equipment

  1. 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 outside.  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.  
  2. 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 for online telemarkskis.
  3. A pair of modern telemark boots.
  4. A kitesurfing or windsurfing harness (waist or seat harness is fine).
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 Place

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)

The Technique

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?


  1. Lay your kite on the ground and put enough snow on its trailing edge to keep it in place.
  2. Release the lines from you control bar or handles and attach your safety leash to your wrist or harness.
  3. 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 3/4 inflated).
  4. Get your boots in your ski binding.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Traditional Inflatables:

  1. 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 wind.  
  2. Fold the kite tip and put enough snow on it to keep it from moving around.
  3. Get in you binding now.
  4. 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).
  5. If you use a 4 line inflatable, adjust your trim strap to put the kite in a depowered mode.
  6. 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 kite.
  7. Pull on the control bar and the line nearest to the ground to unfold the tip and release the kite from the sand.
  8. Pull the top line (the line farthest from the ground) to move the kite up.
  9. Adjust the trim strap to power up your kite (and shackle in if you normally ride shackled in).
  10. 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.

Flat Inflatable:

  • Use the same launching method as traditional inflatable
  • Or
    1. anchor the chicken loop to a heavy object (your skis, snowboard, kiteboard or a heavy bag of sand).
    2. 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.
    3. Go back to the control bar and attach the safety leash if needed.
    4. Attach the chicken loop to you harness.
    5. Get in your binding.
    6. Pull the top line (the line farthest from the ground) to move the kite up.
    7. Drive the kite in the direction where you want to go.


How To Get Going?

A classic telemarking position

  1. Similar to kitesurfing, if you have enough power to get going, simply lock your kite at 30 - 60 degrees in the forward moving direction.
  2. If you don't have enough power, move your kite in a sine wave pattern to get going.
  3. 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
  4. 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):

  1. Move the kite upward and flatten your skis to move downwind.
  2. 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.
  3. Dive the kite in the other direction.
  4. 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 turn.
  5. Keep the new upwind ski parallel to the new down wind ski.
  6. 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.


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