We followed Stefano’s invitation to the www.chastadays.com he organized to the highest volcano in the mediterranean sea on the Italian Island Sicily – the Etna. A still very active volcano that reaches up to 3300m and that gets some good snow for a couple of weeks in the winter at least. Our base for the week was the Refugio Sapienza at the bottom of the southern ski resort just above Catania at almost 2000m. From there we either had to take the lift to climb the first 500 – 600m and kite from there or if the wind was strong enough we were able to start right behind the hotel.
We were pretty lucky all week long and managed to climb to the top the first day. The conditions were great but the wind died out later on so we were lucky we made it up so early. Up to Wednesday the weather turned bad which was positive in a way for us as it dumped snow like crazy which was definitely needed to cover all those Lava rocks and to make riding more enjoyable. Already Wednesday evening the weather cleared a bit and 1m fresh powder was waiting for us. The wind was still strong so we made our way up starting from the hotel. Unfortunately it was too late and the sun was downing already so we had to stop but the forecast for the next day predicted what turned out as my biggest snowkite day ever!!
The wind kicked in just after breakfast and was quite strong down at the hotel we stayed at 1980m. I got out immediately and set up my kite about 300m behind the hotel. The wind was blowing downhill so I needed a lot of power to tack upwind and uphill through the deep snow. The ski lift wasn’t working that day so it was all down to our kites.
The 12m M3 got me going really well and I climbed meter for meter. The higher I got the stronger the wind was but I managed to ride the 12m half the day through. Even up to the top at 3300m. I managed to climb from the hotel to the top in less than 1h. Quite fast considering I had to tack uphill and upwind. From up there I saw 3 other kiters following but they were just half way so I packed the kite and rode down to meet them. Obviously it was Chasta and Pascal followed by Stefano.
The day was perfect all day long with 20 knots at the beginning and getting up to 35- 40 knots in the evening. We couldn’t stop going and rode all day until sunset. It was big, and I don’t know how many times I packed my kite to free ride down but it must have been around 15 – 20 times. Later on I changed down to the 8m which still pulled me up hill full speed – actually going faster uphill than down!!!
The scenery on Etna is just unreal. The smoking mountain with all the craters around, smoke coming of the ground and the open view down to the sea more than 3000m underneath you with a much warmer climate. Up there it’s just you and a couple of friend enjoying free 360° view over the clouds. It feels like you are sitting in an plane dreaming but when you look down you see all that snow and you feel you are alive more than ever – living the dream that moment.
As said at the beginning that day was the biggest day ever since 10 years of snowkiting and it will be hard to beat, for sure!
I do also strongly recommend the Etna to any snowkiter looking for something very special in his life! It’s true backcountry all over with almost no flats but good spots also for beginners. Even though we had 3 days of bad weather we found some little windows in which we could kite for at least 1h a day. Out of 6 days there I was riding every day with 2 very good days and 1 super BIG day. The winds are pretty strong there usually so small kites are obligatory.
There is so much to tell but I reckon you check out the pics and watch the video of Chasta;
Also check out this video Pascal made;
Some statistics from the GPS: Total climbed meters: 10.335m; Distance: 112km; Max climbed alt difference: 1385m; V-average: 21km/h; V-max: 81km/h
Here is my GPS track;