Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 24, 2014

Snowkiting takes off in Traverse City

TRAVERSE CITY — It’s a sunny, still Saturday. The break from winter’s brutal bluster has most Traverse City citizens doing a happy dance.

Yet a sorrowful howl rises in the stillness: “Nooooooooooooo wind.” It’s the lament of the snow kiters.

It’s the Midwest Snow Kite Jam, of course. Over 30 people officially registered for the event in Traverse City. Others casually drop in. But the lack of wind calls for Plan B (i.e. the bar) where snow kiters gather to wait for the wind to blow.

That happens a lot in a sport where “windy” is fair-weather and calm is foul, said Nate Farran. The M22 store manager pointed out that kiters often run toward the wind while others run away from it.

“We literally follow the wind,” said Farran, 32. Or, they wait. Then Sunday in blows gusty and warm, and the skies above East Bay become a kaleidoscope of kites, its frozen surface crosshatched with tracks from the kites’ ski and snowboard-clad cargo.

“It was amazing exposure,” said Eric “Noof” Nuffer, the Midwest Snow Kite Jam’s organizer. “Usually, for safety reasons, we’re out in places where people can’t see us. But the bay’s freezing over was a great introduction to the sport.”

Traverse City is a “playground paradise” for kite sports in all seasons, Nuffer said. Last weekend’s snow kite jam brought folks over from Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, as well as Detroit, he said. The season’s snow dump opened up a number of areas, transforming empty fields into fun zones. Rennie School Road and the Bingham Boat Launch at Lake Leelanau are popular jumping off points, he said.

“We have all this beauty, and with a kite, we can use it,” Nuffer said. Nuffer, 42, owns an aviation business in Traverse City and enjoys playing ambassador to the sport and area.

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