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Bob Lussier, Beaver Falls, kite buggier
Bob Lussier, Beaver Falls, kite buggier

Kite skiing? Try kite buggying!

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Earlier this month, you heard David Sommerstein's report on the 2010 Kite Skiing Festival on the Tug Hill Plateau. Skiers and snowboarders tether themselves to high performance kites that harness the Tug's strong winds and pull them along open farm fields.

While David was at this year's kite skiing festival, he learned there's something else you can do with a kite - kite buggying. Here's David for today's Heard Up North.

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Ron Heppenstall, MA, prepares to launch

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Before we get to kite buggying, here’s a taste of this year’s Tug Hill Kite Skiing festival.  For the third straight year, six carloads of folks came up from Massachusetts.  They’re an online community of kiters – masskiting.com.  They rent a place.  They snow kite during the day and party at night.

I met ‘em in the parking lot while they were gearing up.

We’ve been waiting all week and all night for this.  We got some good conditions, looks like we got some good wind.

Chris Haley’s a bond trader from Boston.  He straps a harness on top of his jacket and snowpants.

We watched some snowboarding videos last night, so everybody got fired up to try some new moves and we’ll see how we do, y’know?  Hopefully we all come back in one piece and have a lot of fun.

I follow the Massachusetts crew up a rise through almost a foot of fresh powder.  It’s freezing, with the temperature in the teens.  The snow’s whipping sideways. 

Ron Heppenstall, a carpenter from Rutland, Massachusetts, is laying out his lines and pumping up his kite.  It has inflatable ribbing because it’s designed to float on water for kite surfing.

Well, right now the lines are hooked up and I’m just about ready to launch.  The heart’s pumpin’ a little bit.

Heppenstall’s a converted snowboarder, and it’s his first trip to the Tug Hill.

I can’t call myself a snow kiter until you come to this event, so…  You get two things coming together.  You already know how to snowboard, you love that.  You add the wind factor and it’s just like two-fold, that much better.  And you get to get away from the ski resorts.  You get to get to places that are just serene, and too many crowds, it’s just a little too much.

Heppenstall takes in the wide expanse in front of us, just a hay field donated by a local farmer.  A dozen kites are already in the air, neon specks swooping and bobbing in a landscape of total white.

Then Heppenstall clips into his snowboard…

[clipping in]

He signals to his buddy to launch his kite…

Hey, Jean…put me up…

Then he leans back and gains control of the kite…

Bring it to full power…  I gonna head off right through there, that way…

And just like that…shush…  He’s off.  He slices down a hill.  The kite juts and jags.  Then it pulls him up a hill just as fast.  He catches some air at the top.

One cool thing about kite skiing is it doesn’t have to be an “extreme” sport.  You can control how fast you go by controlling the kite.  So it’s attracting people of all ages and skill levels.

Bob Lussier, I’m from Beaver Falls right outside of Lowville.

Lussier makes cream cheese at the Kraft plant in Lowville.  He has a bushy gray beard that’s caked with ice and snow.  He says he’s just getting started kite skiing.

I try to do it on a snowboard, I’m in my third year doing it.  I’m just learning how to snowboard so I’m not that good at it.  But I love the sport.

Lussier’s real love is kite buggying.  This, he’s good at.

[buggying interview]

That’s Bob Lussier of Beaver Falls, confessing his addiction to kite buggying.  I met him at the 4th Annual Tug Hill Kite Skiing Festival. 

If you missed it, get ready for next January.  Organizers promise a 5th annual.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein on the Tug Hill Plateau.

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