Tug Hill Kite Festival 2014 was the best day of snow kiting in my entire life. I had made plans to spend the weekend at The Flurry Festival, a 3 day dance festival in Saratoga Springs, but I decided to cancel at the last-minute because of an impending snowstorm. Instead I packed the van with 6 kites, 2 Snowboards, 3 pairs of Micro skis, XC skis, Ski, XC and snowboard boots, some food, my portable heater and camping gear and a couple sleeping bags and started on my personal Mecca to Tug Hill, the promised land for snowkiting.
I arrived at Tug before Zebulon and checked the wind at the top of the hill at Killenbeck Rd. It was reading a steady 17 mph so I grabbed the 15 Speed 3 and my biggest snowboard and started trudging my way though waist deep powder. The powder was light and fluffy and had just fallen the night before. The snowdrifts by the road were over 10 feet tall and as soon as I started to set up my kite a very large snowplow turned the corner onto Killenbeck Rd. He laid on the loudest airhorn I had ever heard and held it down for over a minute. I started the long crawl back to my car and over the giant snowdrift and was pleasantly surprised to see that he had plowed me out a couple of parking spaces at the bottom of the hill by ramming the plow directly into one of the high drifts.
By the time Zebulon Crabnebula, my partner in air-time, showed up I was out riding fully lit on the 15 meter. My general rule of thumb was to never jump higher than I would want to fall off a ladder, but when you are landing in 3′ of powder it doesn’t much matter how you land. I was jumping 15′ in the air and doing a bunch of tricks that I never do on harder snow because I would normally be far too wary of consequences. It felt great to ride without body armor and to launch and land again and again in these huge mountainous piles of snow. I felt engulfed and the whole session took on a totally surreal feel to it. I hadn’t seen Zeb for over a year, but we said few words to each other and just hooted and hollered, both knowing that moments like this never last and we had to soak it up while the wind and powder were still there. We rode for hours and then the winds really started picking up and getting gusty. Zeb dropped down to a 10, then an 8. By the time he was on the 8 I was really unhappy on the 15 and was getting involuntarily jerked off the ground repeatedly. I downsized to the 12 and Zeb stuck with his 8. The Ikon kites he rode really impressed me with their performance, especially the 5th line safety system which is the best system I have ever seen on any foil kite.
Eventually the winds got out of control gusty and Zeb downsized to a 6 meter. We rode together until sunset, loving every minute of it. There were times where I was fully powered up and just would get dragged into these 4 foot deep drifts where I would just grind to a stop. My board and waist were all completely under the snow and I would have to dive the kite hard into the power zone to get launched out of the powder. The feeling of loading up for a huge jump on snow is indescribable, it’s like everything in your body is a giant rubberband and when the board finally releases and the wind catches the kite you feel like spiderman, completely free. All this snow, all this wind and the only people who were there enjoying it was Zeb and I.
That night we headed for Jeb’s in Lowville for some great Fish Tacos and Burgers and hung out at the bar. They had huge couches that we lounged in while rehydrating ourselves from the day’s adventures. Sometime you have friends that you only see every year or two, but when you get together it’s like no time has passed at all and you pick up right where you left off. We decided to crash in the parking lot of Jeb’s which was pretty chill. I stayed up late reading under the heat of my portable propane heater. Zeb had to rearrange all his kites and gear in the back of his pickup truck with a camper top so he could squeeze in and sleep in the back of his truck. In the morning I listened to him rustling around in the back of his truck for 20 minutes or so and kept thinking to myself “what is he doing? It sounds like there is a wild animal thrashing around in there”. Eventually I heard his inevitable cry for help “Kaaaaarrrrlllll”. “Help me out man, I’m locked in the back of my truck”. I could barely stop laughing as I quickly got dressed and freed Zeb from his self-made prison inside the pickup truck cab.
The rest of the kite festival was not really my scene, there wasn’t much wind and there was a LOT of people so I bailed back to my girlfriend’s house in Truxton NY and rode for a few hours by myself near sunset in a totally awesome field with about a foot of powder. It didn’t hold a candle to the session I had with Zeb, and it left me in a space of deep gratitude for the good times I was able to have with good friends.
I feel very lucky and blessed to be alive in this place, in this time. To be a great father, to have the freedom to travel, and to be in love with a Beautiful Danish Photographer.
My life feels like a really good book that I just can’t put down. I just can’t wait to see what happens next.