They’re counting the seconds.
Open up the home page at www.snowkiteevent.com and the first thing you see is a countdown, ticking off the seconds, minutes, hours and days to this year’s Snowkite Solider. It’s the sixth year of an event that brings hundreds of “kiters” in to the Camas Prairie. As of Feb. 1, the days number 22.
About 20 miles west of Fairfield’s city center, the wide open prairie and fairly constant wind makes it an ideal spot for enthusiasts to put space between their skis or snowboards and terra firma.
The sport of snow kiting is relatively new. It blends snowboarding/skiing with kiteboarding or kite-surfing. While its history isn’t really well documented, it got its start in Europe in the mid 1990s and has grown from there. When the snow is good, there are snow kiters around most weekends, but come the last weekend in February, professionals and amateurs alike flock to Southern Idaho.
Event organizers were unavailable for comment, but according to the event’s websites, more than 200 kiters are expected to make their way to the prairie this year. Since there aren’t quite that many rooms available nearby, residents of Fairfield and Camas County rent out rooms, campers and any other open space to help accommodate the visitors.
Chris Bradley owns Soldier Creek Brewing in Fairfield. He said he’s had people dig snow caves into the mounds of snow piled behind his building by city road crews and camp there.
“It’s a pretty festive event, like any snow event,” Bradley said. He said the community and the Chamber of Commerce get actively involved in Snowkite Soldier. Residents volunteer both on site during the day and then in the evening during nightly events and award ceremonies.
“They (event organizers) try to support all the businesses,” Bradley said, although he admits the event has gotten so big over the last few years, his place is too small for some of the larger events. He said last year’s snow kiting movie premier had to take place at the local legion hall.
The four-day event boasts lessons for beginners, adventures camps and exhibitions for the latest equipment. There is a “poker run” with what the organizers call “great swag” as prizes. The late snowfall had this year’s event in jeopardy. As long as the snow holds, Snow Kite Soldier will launch colorful kites in the crystal blue skies of the Camas Prairie.
Feb. 23 – 26
To get there: From Fairfield continue west another 20 miles. Watch for flags and signs marking the event.
For more information monitor the website: http://snowkitesoldier.com and http://www.snowkiteevent.com .