Using a kite on ice is one of the best ways to learn traction kiting. You will go
quite fast and a GPS box which will log your course and maximum speed produces interesting
results and insures bragging rights.
Light wind in the 8-10 range is best, higher winds help overcome increased friction if there
is a snow cover on the ice. On
black or smooth ice a very small kite will suffice. Often only 1.5 to 2.0 meters square
is perfect. What to wear on the feet becomes an important question. If the ice is
very smooth, hockey skates, or mongo (Nordic) skates work best. If there is crusty snow, go with
shorty skis in the 90 cm range. Snow covered ice is less safe
so a greater margin of safety is best... biggest skis in your closet. I often use shorty skis
and just put a very good edge on them each time they are used. Shorty skis are a good
compromise between floatation and edge. Visit my ice toys page to see some pictures of these
This site is mandatory reading - American Kitefliers Association TRACTION KITING MANUAL
There are a few important pieces of equipment. At some point you will land on the ice. Plan on it. Many who kite on ice use- helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, hockey pants (tail bone pad and hip pads), gloves, and a backpack filled with Styrofoam peanuts. This body armor is particularly important if you plan on lofting above the ice. Extra equipment includes a throw rope in a sleeve for tossing to a friend, an ice screw, and a pair of bear claws.
Ice screws were new to me. They are a very specialized piece of equipment used by ice climbers. You can purchase them in different lengths. You can spin them into the ice with a single hand and use them to anchor anything you don't want to blow away on glare ice. They are the best place to put your kite if you need to help somebody else out for any reason. They can be purchased used for $10-$25. Bear claws are the standard survival tool for all ice fishermen. They are the only way to get back onto a sheet of ice if you must by yourself. They are cheap at any price, and you can find plans on the net for making your own. They are essentially a pair of wooden handles with nails sticking out of them. They are usually worn around the neck for easy access in an emergency.
It is always best to kite with other people around. Ice fishermen or Iceboaters are handy
to have about. All carry necessary ice safety equipment and are fast to help in a pinch.
The best way to be safe it to follow the tracks of a bigger person with smaller feet! Go
only where the ice fishermen go, but do it on skis and you will have a very high margin
of safety. Clothing is the key to survival. Life preservers look strange on 24 inch thick
ice, but provide protection from bruises if you fall to the ice. They are also bright
color to make you more obvious to snow mobile operators in lower visibility conditions.
It is always best to make for shore when visibility gets marginal, no sense in making
the sport more dangerous. Lots of lakes have large open holes in the ice. Oneida
in NY state is one of these. Rising gas bubbles cause these. See the picture
below and avoid them. Many layers of clothing approximate a wet suit and buy valuable
time. Wet and Dry suits are expensive. Consider obtaining one if you kite alone.
ONEIDA LAKE KITES-
ONEIDA LAKE GAS HOLE-
William in full dirt surfing regalia (summer). These Rockville skates have brakes.
William using 5.5 meter kite with skis.