Recall Trent's post of some time ago about using skis with on cruddy ice like we are having now on local lakes. Thought of this looking at Powers Lake from buddys house on Sunday with slushy conditions on the edges and a lake covered with mixed patches of bare rough ice interspersed with grainy snow sections. Had brought a snowboard, but decided to go with the downhill skis thinking their edges would hold better in the mixed conditions.
Rigged my "old reliable" 4.9 Flexifoil Blade on two 30m lines. Love this setup for its simplicity and the amazing power the flat foil generates. Almost sold this kite this Winter thinking I would ride the Peter Lynn foils which also work well in snow and ice. However, I came back to the simplicity of the 4.9 Blade open cell foil with two lines. In snow and ice you can jerk the Blade up in seconds. And while it lacks depower, because you don't need as much "grunt" with skis on snow and ice I can handle the power the gusts generate against the smaller kite.
Wind picked up late and just before the Bears game I took off flying across Powers Lake. At sometimes scary speeds it took a while to adjust to the mixed conditions; one second slush, one second glare ice and then one second of realtively even grainy snow as well as the gusty conditions. However, after a few minutes I settled in. Have switched this year from shorty skis which handle much like ice skates to the longer downhill skis. On the snow and ice at Powers and in the city would have preferred the shorty skis for turning, but the longer downhill skis for overall riding. The longer skis track better, but I'm still wrestling with the turns. With skates and shorties I can do fun power jibes under the kite, but am still working on this on the longer skis. Tried to power jibe a few times on Sunday, but went too far under the kite and it fell, once to the ice in a wet spot with the lines caught in the jagged ice. Took a while to get it back up jerking on the lines, but after some struggle I got it up and decided to head for home after a nice 45 minute session.
Overall, I'd say that I prefer hockey skates with a two line 3m open cell foil on glare ice which we don;t often get. The skates offer no resistance and the 3m kite will pull you at scary speeds and allow for incredible "hero" jibes when you luff the kite and your momentum carries you through the turn until the kite powers up again. On rough ice you need to remember to stay back on your heels to assure the you don't catch an edge in a crack and send you tumbling to a very unforgiving surface. Last year on balck ice I went down cracked my head and saw stars losing a sense of where I was. This year I'm wearing a helmet which I think makes sense for any land/snow/ice kiting.
Looking ahead with 6" to 8" of ice on all the nearby lakes even on warm days the downhill skis work well in slush. Bought my downhill skis and boots on sale for about $300 and I like the setup. At the end of the season I'm going to look for another pair of shorty skis for around $150 that would work with the downhill ski boots I have. Think the shorty's work better in small areas with snow not to deep and on frozen lakes. They turn so much quicker than the longer skis although they don't track very well in deep snow. So the ideal setup would mean having both.
Overall, while snowboards certainly give a more kitesurfing feel, I'm happy with the skis which you can skate around in when setting up and going home after the wind dies. Talking to the Michigan guys last Summer and watching the veteran foil kiters with the foils with handles at the Madison Kite fest, it appears that the trend is going more to downhill skis with kites in Wintertime over snowboards which admittedly work well in deeper snow.
Looking ahead, am thinking of going to el Lobo or to Wisconsin as we get more wind. Knowing that the downhill skis will work in "cruddy" conditions opens up a lot of possibilities in slushy conditions and when the ice becomes too rough for hockey skates.