Here at MACkite Boardsports Center we are often asked this time of year "what size snowkite do I need?" On most occasions my reply is "what kind of snowkiting?" While I usually try not to answer a question with another, the terrain and style of riding will dictate the type and best kite size.
With kitesurfing the kiteboard kite size is mostly dependent on wind speed and rider weight. The more wind, the smaller the kite; Larger the rider; larger the kite. For kiteboarding on water you must reach planing speed in order to stay atop the water, but this is not the case for snowkiting as you will remain on top of the snow regardless of the speed. For this reason we often argue that snowkiting is easier to learn than kiteboarding on water. It allows the rider to focus on kite skill and riding position rather than just the logistics of boardstarts and relaunch. Snowkiting also allows the rider to practice with less power, making it safer and less intimidating. Learning on water in 18mph of wind requires a 12m kite such as a Cabrinha Switchblade for a normal rider. With the same rider and wind speed on snow it is fully possible to ride with a 5m kite such as the Cabrinha Vector.
I started kiteboarding on the snow about two years ago. My previous snowsports experience definitely helped me and the learning curve was quite fast. After practicing a few hours on land, I put on my Rome Snowboard and 32 boots, feeling comfortable riding after only a few hours. Come spring it took me only a few tacks to translate my snowkite experience to the water.
Some other considerations when looking at snowkites might also include your terrain, riding style, quiver fit, and experience. If you are wanting to ride in deep powder or up steep hills, then you are going to want a full size kite as you will need that power to get where you are going. This is a double bonus because the same kite will be your most useful kite for kiteboarding on water. Your riding style will determine your kite size because certain riding styles require more power. Examples of this would be wakestyle and freestyle riding; without adequate power there will not be enough power to lift your body into the air to complete your trick. As a beginner, most riders do not yet have a defined riding style but benefit from a safe and easy experience. Beginner snowkiters should look for winds under 20mph, a flat riding area, and packed or under 6 inches of snow. This will allow them to ride with minimal power and still have fun. Even a trainer kite such as the Prism Tensor 4.2 can be a good companion if the conditions are right.
2 years riding