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How To Downhill Kayak On Snow

Updated on June 9, 2014

Downhill Kayaking On Snow

With more snowfall on the ground than I can recall from recent years I was finally afforded the opportunity to try something that has been on my mind for five years: Downhill Kayaking.

As I share my experience, undoubtedly there will be glaring flaws in my process and I welcome your input for improving and optimizing the experience of this pseudo-nouveaux. Please add your ideas,suggestions and criticisms in the comments below. Before discussing specifics I will assume you have the obvious basics. You are in possession of a kayak, paddle and snow covered hill.

I chose my Pyranha Inazone 230 whitewater kayak. A close examination of the bottom indicated that I've been a little rough with it in rivers, as evident by an abundance of deep gouges. To maximize speed potential I employed the same waxing method used for cross country. Swix glide wax was melted onto the base and into the scratched. The excess was gentle scraped off and the process was repeated a several times. When I was confident in the depth of the base wax I polished it smooth with a stiff brush.


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I carted the freshly waxed boat up to a decommissioned ski hill near my house, affixed my plethora of GoPro's and much to the delight of the grade seven class cross country skiing on a field trip began my first glorious attempt.

I wore a neaprene paddling skirt to keep snow out but soon realized my first major oversight: My snow boots wouldn't fit inside. I took them off and stashed them between my legs before cinching the skirt tight.

The first observation of note was the effort required for steering. Without a rudder I needed to lean hard into the turns and drag with the turn-side paddle blade. But this wasn't enough. Not only did I have to lean, I had to actively kick my legs into the desired turn direction. A constant worry was pivoting the craft without redirecting, initiating the crocodile death roll which would probably result in some spine damage. This will take a number of attempts to perfect the carving techniques required for maximal performance.

There were many harrowing moments where I thought the edge wouldn't catch and I would veer off my desired line. Twice I had to bury my uphill shoulder into the snow to arrest my forward momentum lest I careen into trees or a gully.

When travelling in a straight light I could lean back slightly and feel the boat accelerate. With minimal lower body effort and a few quick drags of the paddle blades I could maintain a straight line.

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Upon the conclusion of the run I clipped the boat to a length of climbing webbing, readorn my boots and trudged back up the snowy hill. When tracking in a straight line the boat almost didn't break the surface, rather shined up the surface. I altered the location of the GoPro mounts and began again. The above video is a combination of two runs edited with the stock GoPro software available on their website. I found it to be quite user friendly for my first attempt editing videos.

To enhance the experience, I would advise selecting a play boat similar to those used for kayaking in surf with one to three small, solid rudders. Additionally, my paddle seemed more of a liability that an aid. I would consider a modified metal pole with a bumper that I wouldn't worry about aggressively plunging into the snow.

The Holy Grail of Action Sports POV Cameras

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It should go without saying that downhill snow kayaking is a dangerous sport and while this is meant as an instructional and an exposay on my experiences, I can't assume any responsibility for harm incurred whilst participating in this activity. Should you decide to attempt, please do so at your own risk and understand the dangers associated. I'd say seek professional instruction but good luck finding a reputable downhill snow kayaking school.

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