Red Bull Ragnarok 2014
So in the spring of 2014 I got my baptism of fire in terms of snowkiting when partaking in Red Bull Ragnarok 2014. As a Dane who has never been either to Sweden or Norway or any other place with mountains and snow, my experience as a snowkiter was limited to the inland fields of Denmark during the (Very few) days with 5-15 centimetres of snow.
The race was held in the stunning surroundings of the Haugastøl plateau during Friday the 4th of April. The wind was very light, rather than using my snowboard I decided to use skies, thankfully recommend that I take them by Shaun from Wagtail kite boarding school. Given the conditions – a lot of the other participants also changed to skies due to the wind and snow conditions. I used my trusty 18 meter Peter Lynn Charger II – an amazing kite with a huge wind range, but not exactly a race-machine. Being a light wind race some of the serious guys were flying very high aspect race kites and of cause the usual foil suspects (Flysurfer, HQ and Ozone) was well represented as well. I decided to start in the back downwind and let the mayhem-to-be break loose once the horn blew and try to stay clear of it. As the race was 5 laps I would have plenty of time to catch up with my real competitors; the casual kiter on a freestyle kite like myself.
The build up to the race was exhilarating, 200 kites in the air and 200 excited kites below ready to blast past the starting line – everybody was in for one hell of an experience. The course was made of 5 checkpoints and the start/finish line, each checkpoint was placed on top of a small hill, in essence the whole race was hills and valleys. Once the horn was blown all 200 kiters dropped their kites simultaneously and off we went towards the 1st checkpoint. Being at the back I could see the kites dropping out of the sky near the bottom of the first checkpoint ad I soon found myself in the same situation. I managed to re-launch and loop the kite to go a little further but eventually I had to succumb to walking up to the 1st checkpoint. At the top of the hill we had wind so I launched and when off on the longest downwind tack on the course. For a brief moment I was unfocussed doing a down-loop and crashed my kite into a guy on a flysurfer, he was very quick to pull his safety – nothing happened and he was really cool about it. I helped him to re-launch and we were soon back on our way. The rest of the way went quite well up to the 2nd checkpoint, but on the way down I caught up with the kite and it dropped out of the sky. If I had actually tried alpine skiing before it would have helped here.
The way to the 3rd checkpoint was mostly flat and on a beam reaches tack, from the hill at the 3rd checkpoint I could see the 4th checkpoint in the horizon. The entire course was marked with Red Bull flags which I wrongly decided to follow from the 3rd to 4th checkpoint. The flags were put in a straight line between the checkpoints and went straight through a deep valley which I soon found myself in. I stood at the foot of the highest point of the entire course and figured there wasn’t nearly enough wind for me to climb it, so I had to work my way back up the ridge. I found some small comfort in seeing I wasn’t the only one making that mistake, but most of the guys were blasting through on top of the ridge. Up on the ridged there was more wind, I was fatiguing and didn’t manage to take full advantage of the wind. Once again I had to succumb, but as I climbed the hill with the kite still in the sky. I soon found there was a lot more wind, so the 4th checkpoint was cleared and I was on my way to the 5th checkpoint with good speed.
Between the 4th and the 5th checkpoint I met a kiter with his kite flagged out and entangled on the ground, he was clearly not happy with the situation. He yelled at me if he could borrow my kite, I thought he was joking. He told me he was on the 5th and final lap and was in the running for a 2nd or 3rd place finish. I was tired and at the back of the race pack. I decided since he was so close and with a possible podium finish, it would be a better option if I could help him out. He promised to come back with it as soon as he cleared the 5th checkpoint and crossed the finish line. A very happy man kited off as I walked towards the 5th checkpoint where I got a lift on a snow scooter. I caught up with the guy with my kite, as he was about to back it down and walk back to me. The break I had and the nice wind between the 4th and 5th checkpoint got me thinking that I could at least to one more lap. But down on the lake at the start/finish line there was no wind, and I had to finally accept defeat. Yet I wasn’t alone only 40 of the 200 kiters did all five laps, and my final placement in the ski group was 83 – not too bad for my first ever snow kite race as an amateur kiter.
After the race I caught up with the guy who borrowed my Peter Lynn Charger II, it was Felix Kersten who actually finished 3rd place in the ski group. He was very grateful that I had lend him my kite and was very eager to let me play around with his 15 m Ozone Chrono – it’s a really nice kite, but I’m not changing my Peter Lynn Charger II’s any time soon. All in all it was a huge experience and I’m planning to go again next year as well, this time around I will do my homework in advance.