We headed out to Norway a few days before the event to get some snowkite practice in and figure out the area. It is a big old area too. The event is held on the Hardangervidda – Europe’s largest mountain plateau. This basically means snow and mellow hills for as far as you can see. You can go for miles. It is a great snowkite spot as unlike many mountain areas – it works with wind from any direction. We met up with Ozone designers Dom and Stu as well as team rider Didier Botta.
Pete was entering the ski category whilst Lance was on a snowboard. I was on a photo mission. The first two days we got some solid snowkite sessions in. It is very similar in so many ways to kitesurfing, but there are differences and techniques to learn. The terrain is very different! One aspect that is fun from a snowboarders point of view is using the kite to get up hills quick, then packing down and freeriding back to the bottom. It is a lot faster than hiking!
The next couple of days there was very little wind forecast so we opted to hit a couple of resorts. The first was Hemsedel, an hours drive away, which was great. Competitive spirits came out on the boardercross track! The next day we stayed local and hit the slopes in Geilo. We practically had the resort to ourselves! The third day of bad forecast we had a down day to catch up with work, go through the photos and videos we had captured and rest the legs.
In the evening it was registration – and a good time to catch up with everyone including Ozone riders from loads of other countries.
The day before the race we headed out to get some more practice in but conditions were bad. Total white out and no wind. We went for a hike on snow shoes / splitboards instead. It is good to get out and stretch the legs and it helps to familiarise yourself with the area.
Saturday morning came – we had studied the forecasts and were pretty sure the race would run – sure enough at the riders briefing the course was revealed and it was on! Time to prepare gear and get to the busses. It was a lot windier than the organisers had hoped for. Around 25 knots on the start line. The total distance to complete the race is around 130km, in 5 laps, around 5 marks in a time limit of 5 hours.
As the race started the usual suspects shot off into the distance, and the masses slowly got going. Mark 1 as is to be expected was carnage and claimed a lot of casualties. Tangles, people skiing over each others lines etc. Not helped by a considerably increase in the wind speed at the end of the course.
For those lucky to get past the first mark, it was the third that really sorted out the true competitors from those there for the experience. It was on top of a hill and the wind was recorded as hitting 45 knots. Considerably more than the 25 knots at the start line. A lot of people suddenly realised they had made a bad kite choice. This was the end of the race for many including our very own Pete.
Mark 4 was notoriously hard to find. Many competitors wasting a lot of time trying to find it. The final mark, was near the pits and start line. This was now a pretty low wind area with many struggling to get across the mark – a total opposite of mark 3.
Ozone riders cleaned up in the end. Only 8 people actually finished the race. R1s were the kite to have on the day. Felix came in first winning the ski category. Ozone designer Dom came in third. Jonas won the snowboard category and Lance came in 14th – a good achievement for a first effort and no specialised snowboard set up. The top five snowboarders were all Ozone riders.
We cannot wait to get back to Hardangervidda for more snowkiting!