Snowkiting in Spray Lakes
When it comes to winter sport destinations, there are very few locations that rival the Canadian Rocky Mountains. With big bowls, fresh champagne powder and endless terrain, skiers and snowboarders flock from all over just to taste the grandeur of this mountain range. And no doubt, with big peaks and cold winters comes a lot of snow. And we are talking A TONNE of snow! It really is no surprise why it's named one of the world’s leading spots for snowboarders, skiers and now snowkiters to ride.
For those who already snowkite, you know that it's a truly unique way to explore the mountains. All of a sudden, those flat powder fields are accessible, and you can travel uphill as well as down, or wherever the wind chooses to take you! Arguably an easier version of kiteboarding, snowkiting is simpler if you already ski or snowboard and have your own gear.. you're literally half way there! A kite, harness and helmet is just left to get going. If you don’t yet know how to snowboard or ski, then now is the time to learn.
Expect the Unexpected
Expect the unexpected in a sport like snowkiting. This is the exact motto that echoes in the ranges, and it's even more relevant when you head out to a destination like the Rocky Mountains.
Similarly to kiteboarding, snowkiters thrive on the kick of adrenaline that's powered by the wind and harnessed by the kite, but this time on snow rather than water. Switch the ocean for powder, and waves for... well… cliffs, and you'll be a snowkiter in no time. With some big jumps, air tricks and strong gusts overlooking a backdrop of epic mountains, and you've taken snowboarding to the extreme.
Snow covered lakes make for the perfect terrain to play around, with wide open spaces to flip and switch, as well as the natural wind tunnels famed here. This is why snowkiting in Spray Lakes near Canmore is one of THE best spots to visit.
Strap’In and Ride
Whether you’re a beginner snowkiter or you already eat snow for breakfast, Spray Lakes pretty much has something for everyone. The reservoir dam offers this natural, park-like playground with pillows, banks and natural features to keep you entertained for hours, days, or even weeks.
The conditions here are perfect too, with reliable winds, a solid, packed base, amazing thick snow and jaw-dropping scenery. If you’re new to the snowkiting world then this spot also has some certified IKO instructors that will ease you in at your leisure. Before you know it, you'll be aware of your surroundings, taking educated risks, and bombing it down the lake!
If you're completely new to the sport, then reserve 3-4 days of tuition, otherwise if you can already ski or snowboard, then a couple of days would be a fair time frame. Then give it a season of practice and you’ll be flying high and accessing virgin snow bowls in no time.
When to go?
Well, the hint is in the name: snowkiting. You got it! You need snow, and wind. Fortunately, Alberta's winters are long and snowy, which can start in October and last through to April. Peak months are similar to the northern hemisphere winters, and predominately fall in December, January, February and the start of March.
One thing to note about this region is that it does get COLD. Temperatures can drop as low as 20°C (sometimes more) so we can’t stress enough, the importance of good kit. You need it to be warm, waterproof and covering most extremities. Banff National Park in particular sees an icepack around 2m thick, so fortunately with cold temperatures comes a safe lake base to jump around on!
Where to rig up?
THE spot around the Alberta district of the Rocky Mountains is of course, Spray Lakes. Home to Canada’s ‘Rocky Mountain Snow Kiting Retreat’, this great spot is around a 1h45 drive west of Calgary, just before you reach Canmore. A hop over the reservoir and you’ll find a secret, heaven – here, lies snow kiting magic. This pristine lake area is sized just under 20km2 and forms an ideal extreme winter playground, with consistent wind for 90% of the season in a natural wind tunnel. Here all ability levels flock, simply because they have the space, time and soft landing that every snow-kiter deserves.
Alberta is jam packed with snow and places to kite! Here are some other areas nearby:
Located in Southern Alberta, you can find Lake Keho near to Barrons. South Westerly winds dominate between October and April, with 3 preferred launch sites to the north of the lake: Kehokipa, Kite Ranch, Kite Beach.
A varied site near Milo that offers great variety. Launch sites are dotted all around the lake, meaning it's a great spot for any direction of wind.
On the opposite, eastern side of Calgary, drive for 10 minutes and you’ll find the small lake of Chestermere. This is a fab, close and easy afternoon ride if you’re based in the city.
The hamlet of Cochrane Lake is a strange spot. A calm, small lake that is fairly non-descript. But when it's iced over in winter and the chinooks blow, it can be a great spot for snowkiting.
Home to the old Winter Snowkite Festival, Cooking Lake is located south-east of Edmonton and offers some strong, reliable gusts up to 15 knots. Just be aware it can get wet up here.
W/SW winds dominate at Lake Newell, a man made reservoir just 15 minutes south of Brooks, Alberta. It's a good, open spot for snow-kiting with a variety of launch spots all around.
....the list goes on! There's actually a tonne of small, Rocky Mountain lakes dotted around the state, but these are our top picks.
No wind, No snow?
Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are -plenty- of locations that work for snowkiting – enough to cover all wind directions and strengths. That being said, if you fancy a rest day or change then these are our picks:
- Ski/snowboard - Banff National Park (Lake Louise or Sunshine are our favourites) or Jasper National Park (Marmot Basin) are filled with ski/snowboarding terrain that will keep you entertained for days. Only, this way you will have to take the chair-lift like everyone else.
- Banff Hot Springs – The super hot, natural springs are located in Banff National Park and a great afternoon to destress and stretch out those knots.
- Johnston Ice Canyon Walk – Exploring the natural ice sculptures, frozen waterfalls and deep canyons, this 2.5 mile walk is pretty unique and epic. The upper canyon waterfall is WOW-worthy.
- Spray Lake Skijoring – Let the dogs do the work so you don’t have to, and be guided across Spray Lake by a pack of hounds.
- Ice Skate on Lake Louise – Lake Louise is famed in summer months for its emerald colour and magnificent beauty, but in winter, this iced over area is a playground for ice skaters.Needless to say, there are endless activities top keep you entertained during Canada’s long winters. You may even want to consider these crackers: snowshoeing, ice climbing, heli-hiking, ice hockey, visiting the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sancturary or munching on fondue!
Where to next? Fancy ditching the snow for water and heading to warmer climes? If you're after white sands, butter-flat waters, tropical climates and Cuba libre’s on tap, then check out kiteboarding in Cuba. Or head to Thailand for flat, shallow & crystalline ocean riding, and plenty of good vibes. Here is a guide on kitesurfing in Koh Phangan, Thailand - it's more than just Full Moon Parties don't cha know!