Who, What, Where, Now!
Waiting on the Wind
Photography by Hailey Tucker
In the summertime, the Camas Prairie, west of Fairfield, is known for its massive stretches of land covered by the blue shades of camas flowers. From a distance, the flower-covered fields can often appear to create the illusion of water nestled in the softly rolling hills.
Come winter, the false lakes of blue flowers are gone and the 100,000 acres of desert land are blanketed in snow. The vast prairie looks striking with few trees or buildings to break up the seemingly endless expanse of white.
This emptiness combined with howling winds, which can be strong enough to form dune-like snowdrifts along Highway 20, are what is giving the small town of Fairfield, population 417, a reputation worldwide.
The barren, snow-shrouded hills of the Camas Prairie are becoming known as some of the best snowkiting grounds around the world. Said to rival regions of Norway and Alaska, the Camas Prairie’s consistent winds and empty landscapes are ideal for sailing on the snow.
In snowkiting, a sport than combines the sail-like kites from kite surfing with skiing and snowboarding, riders can travel upward of 60 mph, which makes unobstructed terrain a necessity.
Trisha Smith, co-director of the Camas Prairie snowkiting event Kite Soldiers, said the area is not only ideal snowkiting because of its barren grounds and constant winds, but also because it offers some of the most diverse terrain available.
“There’s so much out there. In every wind direction, there is somewhere to go,” Smith said.
Smith and co-worker Monty Goldman, founder of Snowkite Soldier, a snowkiting instruction program based out of Soldier Mountain, held the fifth annual Kite Soldiers this past weekend on the Camas Prairie.
Smith said Kite Soldiers started as a small snowkiting get-together and barbeque, but has grown over the years to be one of the largest three-day, competitive snowkiting events in the country. Participants from as far as Russia, Aruba and Norway traveled to the Camas Prairie to test out the south central Idaho winds.
Unfortunately, despite the area’s reputation for consistent winds, this year’s event landed on a less-than-blustery weekend. Smith said that Friday and Sunday offered hardly any wind to eager competitors. Saturday, however, brought exactly what they were hoping for.
Although most of Saturday’s events had to be postponed until the afternoon, once the winds picked up, they provided ideal Camas Prairie conditions for a good portion of the day, Smith said.
Throughout the weekend, regardless of the down time involved, the snowkiters showed their dedication and passion for their sport by waiting patiently for the winds to set in.
“In snowkiting, you might have to wait around a lot, or you might get what we call ‘skunk’, no wind, but when you get it—it’s the best thing ever,” Smith said. “It’s just amazing.”
Smith added that hearing people who were visiting or snowkiting for the first time marvel about how great the area was for the sport and how much fun they were having was one of her favorite parts of the weekend.
This year’s Kite Soldiers was also the final stop of the First Annual North American Snow Kite Tour. Competitors challenged each other in racing and freestyle categories at stops in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, with the final round in Idaho. Sunday marked the end of the tour with Tyler Brown and Melissa Cronin taking first place for skiing and Lisa Kay Keen and Jacob Buzianis for snowboarding.
Smith said despite the weak winds, the event was a success and that she hopes to see it grow. She even mentioned the potential she sees in the Camas Prairie to develop into some sort of a Mecca for snowkiters. She compared it to what Hood River in Oregon has become for kitesurfers.
For anyone interested in learning to snowkite, Smith and Goldman offer lessons through Snowkite Soldier and are eager to introduce more people to the sport. Smith warned that the snowkiting learning curve can be a little rough, but said that they are able to get most customers riding by the end of their first lesson. For more information on the packages available through Snowkite Soldier, visit www.snowkitesoldier.com/.
Things to Buzz about:
Fourth Annual Children's Arts Festival--Saturday, March 5, 2011
The Fourth Annual Children's Arts Festival is open to children grade K-5. The festival is free of cost and includes classes, performances, crafts, puppetry, a "musical instrument petting zoo" and a visual arts display from various schools all the Community Campus in Hailey. For a schedule of the activities and to register, visit www.wrartsalliance.org. For more information, call 578-7720.
Ninth Annual Sawtooth Ski Festival--Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 6, 2011
Spend the weekend celebrating skiing in and around the Sawtooths at the Ninth Annual Sawtooth Ski Festival. The weekend will include a ski and snowshoe poker run, prizes, homemade food, an auction, live music and some of the best views around. To see a more detailed schedule, visit www.stanleycc.org/do/sawtooth-ski-festival/. To donate auction items, volunteer or ask questions, call David or Karen at 774-3487.
26th Annual Paw n' Pole--Sunday, March 6, 2011
Crosscountry ski or snowshoe with a four-legged friend Sunday. Bring your dog or an Animal Shelter dog on a leash. The races will be start out Sun Valley Road toward Trail Creek. There will be signs to direct participants. Costumes are optional, and for those wanting to get dressed up, the theme is "Howlin Hoedown" Western. Prizes will be awarded for best costume and silly pet tricks. The races begin at 10 a.m. Registration is $5 for a child, $10 for adults, $20 for a family. For more information call 788-4351 or visit www.animalshelterwrv.org.