December 27, 2010
Winter Flying

Cold.

It is snowing across most of the country and lakes are freezing solid. But that's no reason to keep our kites locked away. In fact, it may be a good opportunity for some really special winter fun!

We don't get much snow here in Oregon. And the nice thing about rain is that you don't need to shovel it off the driveway. But you can't fly in rain.

The first time we were invited to an ice fly, it was a real eye opener. It was the inaugural Kites on Ice in Wisconsin. I stepped onto the lake and there was this eerie cracking noise as the surface expanded and contracted. Scared me to death! For a moment, the only warm thing on the lake was running down my leg!

Slowly we built confidence and went to work.

Ice Flying

It didn't help that there were signs warning the public that ice was thin and that only authorized kiters were allowed off-shore...

What we discovered is that a frozen lake surface is a great open space for kiting. Particularly in urban areas, you can get kite fields in close to the public near the center of town! But with larger kites, you first have to learn some tricks for anchoring.

Ice Flying

At our first Kites on Ice, they provided sand bags for anchors. I tied off the line, Susie stayed with the anchor, and I stepped back to launch our lifter. The kite went up and the bag took off -- with Susan straddling it -- heels dug in for steering but not much good for brakes. I think she went about half a mile...

Our next attempt involved drilling holes through the ice. We then lowered pieces of 2x4's with a length of rope attached, through the hole. Turn the board sideways and you had a good solid anchor. The only problem was cold, wet hands.

Finally, we settled on high-tech ice screws. They were easy and remarkably solid. And yes, they were a bit expensive but compact and very effective.

We bought boots, socks, long underwear and gloves for our annual ice flies. BTW - -are you supposed to wear short underwear under your long underwear?? I asked that question from the banquet stage and got a variety of answers. Finally, one year, I phoned the REI customer support center and asked an expert. The response was surprisingly practical. Ask me sometime...

Ice Flying

After four KOI events, I began to grow cocky. We had clothes. We had anchors. We had experience on the ice. We were ready for something new. That was the year we were invited to St Honore in Quebec.

Understand that Wisconsin temperatures usually hovered about 20 degrees. That's 20 above zero. When we got off the plane in Montreal, it was 20 below zero. That's the difference between a balmy 70 degree summer day and freezing!!

The van drove us out onto the lake. Drove us! We parked next to a small ice fishing hut and our host handed us a box of firewood. Over the course of two days, we'd run out of the house, tie a knot or adjust a bridle, and then run back inside. The wind chill outside had dropped the temperature to 40 below. That day we learned that 40 below zero is the same thing in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. It was very, very cold....

Ice Flying

I have a new respect for my Canadian kite friends. And I will not soon forget trying to use a porta-potty in 20 minus degrees.

At the end of the day, we tried to pack up gear but the kites would not compress. The fabric was stiff and crunchy. In fact, we worried if there would be any damage or cracking if we tried to bag nylon that was frozen stiff.

Ice Flying

So you are reading this now and probably thinking that ice and snow kiting doesn't sound like any fun at all. And of course you'd be wrong.

Cold weather kiting has challenges -- like skiing, or sledding, or ice hockey. It really is fun! You overcome the obstacles and get extra points for the accomplishment! Besides, we can't afford to spend half the year without airing out a kite!

So cinch up your long underwear, lace up your boots, and make sure your gloves are dry. Go put some color in those grey skies!!

Kites on Ice had a successful six year run before funding for international guests ran out. St Honore, we never went back to. Seems they invite people just once since watching them react is part of the fun. But there are plenty of great cold weather events on the calendars over the next two months. Chain up and head for one, or just go outside for some winter fun!

Sled Sale: All this talk about snow makes us want to put Sleds on sale. Para Sled Lifters, that is....

Here's a collection of solid lifters for all occasions. They will carry a huge assortment of line art, or anchor a show all by themselves. The special ram-air design provides increased lift and stability in a wide range of wind conditions.

Super Sled: This 40 square foot lifter is perfect for line decorations and tails. Hyper flexible spars give the kite form, but are virtually indestructible. 8 feet wide and 5 feet tall for just $70

Mega Sled:This big 75 square foot lifter is a strong, reliable kite that won't let you down. Spars disassemble for compact storage. 10 feet Wide and 7.5 feet tall for $150

Order by January 5th and mention the Update for a 20% discount.

*Click here to place an order.

Lifter Sleds

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