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Our Alaska: Snowkiting near Valdez

Ken Lucus Film

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The typical ski trail ratings -- easy, intermediate, black diamond and double black diamond -- don't mean much when you're not even touching the ground. That's the joy that snowkiters experience, as they utilize their huge kites that look like a parachute to pull them across fields of snow, breaking with the ground for big air that traditional skiers and snowboarders can only dream of.

Overlapping this year's Tailgate Alaska -- a two-week gathering of backcountry enthusiasts that's billed as the world's largest -- was the fourth-annual iteration of the Thompson Pass Snowkiting Festival, which draws snowkite enthusiasts with the promise of great snow conditions in a place where the snow is typically deeper than anywhere in Alaska.

Sure, Our Alaska has visited kiteboarding before, as well as a different trip to Thompson Pass, but this is a whole 'nother beast. Check out the video above, uploaded by YouTube user Kennyskimt in the wake of this year's Snowkiting Festival, to see how snowkiters get hang time that can last more than 10 seconds in some of the most pristine snow conditions on Earth. Be sure to watch to the end for some interesting angles.

Along with the snowmachine-fest Arctic Man, Tailgate Alaska represents a "last blast" for winter sports in Alaska. Both take place in early April, as spring sets in around the state and snowboards and snowmachines get swapped out for dipnets and four-wheelers. Winter's not necessarily over in Thompson Pass, though -- much of the area stays snowy year-round.

Our Alaska takes a look at the people, places, activities and wildlife that make Alaska great. There's the Alaska that many people know from reality television, and then there's Our Alaska. If you have a video that puts the spotlight on the positive, educational or unique aspects of Alaska and its people, send links or submissions to ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.