“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky. And you ask ‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”
By Molly Barber
Photos courtesy of Tyler Brown
The world we live in can be a pretty overwhelming place sometimes. With the world wide web literally at our fingertips we have access to unlimited information, gossip and social media. Between televisions, computers, and phones, screens consume our days. I think that’s one of the reasons I love this feature so much. It highlights time spent away from screens and adventures that can take place without “likes” and “notifications.” Run Wild tells of people who choose to get lost in nature instead of the internet and when you see what they’re doing it’s easy to see why they choose that. Can you imagine rafting down rapids? Catching that perfect wave in Lake Tahoe? Flying over mountains? Yeah, you read that last one right. Tyler Brown flies over mountains.
His sport is called kite skiing and it’s amazing. “It’s kinda limitless as far as possibilities. You can go uphill, you can sail off the top of the mountain, you can jump however high you want.” Tyler explains. “It’s like you’re personal poma-toe. It’s pulling you right from your core and it’s effortless… and you can go incredibly fast up hill.”
Tyler, who grew up in Tahoe, was a competitive skier and while traveling after college, he picked up kite boarding. When he moved back to Tahoe he melded his new found sport with his old faithful one. “I kinda did it as cross training for kite boarding on the water and it happened to be a time when that sport was pretty small. I happened to go out to these competitions that were already happening in the US (Utah, Colorado and Montana) and I just started doing really well in them and winning right from the beginning,” said Tyler who’s been a pioneer in the world of snow kiting- pushing the sport forward, as well as the freestyle aspect of it.
He’s won the North American Snow Kite Tour numerous times and even competes in the Ragnarok Race in Norway. “It’s a big Red Bull® event. It’s 350 people on one start line and you race. You basically go around a series of marks, it’s kinda the same rules as sail boat racing and it’s a 130 kilometer race just over this mountain, down through the next valley, over the next mountain. They give it a five hour cap. That’s the biggest contest in the world for sure-for snow kiting.”
Snow kiting is a big deal in Norway, it’s a mainstream sport there and Ragnarok is the ‘end of days’ in Norse mythology. “According to the myth they fought the end of days for three years; then there was a break and so they (Red Bull) copy it. Which is crazy.” Tyler explained. “So there was three years of racing and then there was a stop and it continued. So we’ll see where it will go. I think last year was the sixth year. But I think the sport’s gotten so large, it’s not going to stop, they’ll keep it going.”
Every year Tyler travels to Norway for the event. He makes it a priority to find some new summits to explore. “I did a trip this year to Norway, France and Italy, and we did some amazing kiting. We kited to the top of La Meije which is one of the tallest glaciers in the French Alps, which is pretty cool. It’s full glaciers, I’d be kiting and it’d be like time to jump because there’s some open crevasse. It was incredible,” said Tyler who has also sumitted Mt. Lassen and countless other peaks in the Sierras.
Tyler has since started a business in Tahoe where he teaches and guides those interested in snow kiting. This sport is surprisingly cheap. Intro lessons start at $75 and if you want to learn start to finish, it’s $350. “And kite boarding gear- it’s kinda a gear-head sport. So you have all these rich guys buying all this brand new equipment every year and the used kite market is really flooded with gear, so you can get amazing kites for really cheap you know?” Tyler said. “I would say you can enter the sport for around $500, not counting lessons.”
On top of being a super cheap sport to get, it’s relatively safe. “A lot of people think it’s SO EXTREME but the funny thing is downhill skiing is WAY more dangerous- riding chair lifts and all that. People see the videos of us flying and jumping super high but you have to really be of the top tier athlete and have done it for a long time to even get to that point. So for the majority of the people who snow kite, it’s incredibly safe. I have my kids do it,” Tyler explained. “The best student I’ve ever had was a 10 year old. He picked it up in like 20 minutes, he was incredible. Never touched a kite in his life and then he was just ripping across the meadow. It was pretty cool.”
If this is something that you’re interested in check out Tyler’s website and get in contact with him to sign yourself up for a lesson at SierraSnowkite.com. This is something that you could learn solo, with friends or you could even make it a family affair. “It’s super safe, kids tend to be really good. Women do better than men, it’s kinda a finesse thing, which is funny.” Tyler said. “My leading demographic teaching is like women between like 40 and 60. It’s really strange. I mean prior to opening a school, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that but for some reason that was who showed up and they were like ‘it just looked so beautiful and graceful, I want to try it.’”
There’s so much to love about this sport, I put Tyler on the spot asking him why he fell in love with it and his answer was perfect. “Basically it’s the freedom. That’s the most incredible thing.” He went on to describe how for some people freedom is skiing in a ski area but for him growing up doing that, he wanted to take it to the next level which was back country skiing.”But then you’re still limited on how far you can reach, like in a day or if you bring all your gear, you’re still limited. With a kite, you can travel uphill or across ground at 30 MPH, so your reach is just incredible. You can say, ‘Hey, let’s go over this mountain and the next the one and the next one, and then we’ll get to where we wanna kite.’ Versus going back country skiing unless you have a helicopter… So it’s the exploration and the freedom of it.”
Take a walk on the wild side this season and book a class with Tyler and his crew. The screens will be there after your adventure, I promise. Life on the other hand comes around once and you don’t want to miss it.