Finding a new Location - Utah, USA
We started by researching Topographic maps, looking for locations where highways intersected high altitude mountain passes. It turned out that there are very few, less than a dozen highways in Utah anyway, that have active snow plows keeping the roads open for recreation users all winter. Most of the mountain highways actually close in winter, and only snowmobile and X-C skiers can access the backcountry goods. Skyline, located on Highway 31 is one of these few ‘OPEN’ Highways in Utah. There are a few others that lead to great riding, like Strawberry Reservoir located on Highway 40, but many of the other highways are forested and offer little or no easy access to open areas that are suitable for Snowkiting.
Of all of the Highways, only Route 72 offers access to open snowkiting areas during a continuous climb from the desert valley to the summit at an altitude of 8900 feet. Loaded with slopes facing every direction, Hogan Pass is an obvious destination for any terrain loving Snowkiter. The problem is Highway 72 lies in the southern deserts of Utah, and despite its high elevation, it rarely sees a steady snowfall or solid snow pack. After hearing rumors from the local plow drivers of epic winter snows and huge wind blown cornices, we knew that it wasn’t just a vision, but snow actually piled up at Hogan Pass. We just needed to catch it at the right time.
Time was all it took. Season after season, we would divert south to scope out the potential of central and southern Utah for Snowkite spots, repeatedly turned away by a lack of snow. One object that always inspired us about the potential of Hogan Pass, was a huge metal wind fence, representing a defense against heavy wind blown snow. After seeing a thin base of snow build before the holidays, we knew that we were just a storm away from riding this elusive location. A week into the new year an epic snow storm piled up over the western US and dumped massive amounts of snow combined with an intense wind event. A week later clear skies found local riders, Marty Lowe and Brian Schenck searching for wind and researching snow depths at Hogan Pass and its surrounding areas. Near the top of the pass we found wind, and a snow-less ridge line that had been severely wind blown. We drove a mile down the road to find more favorable snow conditions and enough wind to tease us out on our biggest kites. I launched a 15 meter Manta II while Marty laid out his 10 meter MII. While I was surprised at the power of this big kite in the 6 mph winds, I was soon enjoying the full range of power as the winds filled in to 15 mph.
After several years, miles and days, we finally scored at an amazing new Snowkite location. Maybe more snow will come and allow riding all winter, maybe desert heat waves will keep other kiters away for decades. Either way, the 14.2 miles I registered on my GPS were numbers that represent a feeling that can hardly be translated… the emotion of riding miles of untracked snow that no other skier, boarder or kiter had ever touched… the feeling of capturing something new, if only for a moment.
Details about locations and weather can be found at www.kiteutah.com