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Never coming down

Noah Poritz found his answer. It’s blowing in the wind.

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“I’d say it’s a niche thing, even though it’s been around for a while,” he says. “There are a lot of people, especially here, who are still new to it.”

Beatty describes a close-knit group of die-hard kiters who stay in touch about weather conditions, new spots and opportunities to meet up. Asked who’s most active in that group, Beatty doesn’t hesitate.

“Noah takes it to another level,” he says. “He’s pioneered the most locations, he’s out there the most, he’s most active in the forums, he’s—let’s just say he takes it to another level. He’s unreal.”

Devon Powell, a Montana State student, frequents MontanaKiteSports.com and often uploads video of his kiting adventures. Asked about the state’s best kiters, he defers to what he’s heard.

“There’s a guy out of Bozeman, an older guy that’s really into the scene,” says Powell. “He’s the kiter other kiters talk about.”

He’s talking about Poritz.

While Beatty admits he doesn’t kite as often as he’d like because of “real life stuff” (he recently left Montana to pursue a doctorate at Michigan Tech) and Powell is often waylaid with studies, Poritz has few distractions. During summers he works with his wife, Leona, on the business they started in 1986, Biological Control of Weeds, Inc. Day in and day out, Poritz, who holds a master’s degree in entomology, collects insects that help farmers and ranchers fight invasive species like knapweed, leafy spurge and St.-John’s-wort. The work ends by October, leaving him to dedicate his winter—and parts of fall and spring—to snowkiting.

“I don’t do anything else,” he says. “I don’t ride chairs. I haven’t telemarked for years. This is it. This is my drug. I gotta get my fix.”

Poritz ticks off a list of favorite locations and when he visits them, ranging from the Snowcrest Range in October to the Beartooths in May. Between those months, there’s Mount Haggin, Big Hole Pass, Raynolds Pass on the Montana-Idaho border, the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and Montana, and a few spots right in Bozeman. He goes wherever conditions are best, or wherever work or fun might take him. A trip to a Widespread Panic concert in Denver included snowkiting stops in Wyoming. His weekend at Island Park may or may not have been planned around a Rusted Root show at a pizzeria in West Yellowstone on Friday night.

“Despite it being a low-snowpack year, I’ve had a lot of great days,” he says. “It can be done if you’re willing to drive for it.”

What separates Poritz from the park-and-kite pack is his willingness to work for kiting’s best spots. He and frequent snowkiting partner Chris Archer snowmobiled through “tremendously rotten” snow at Raynolds Pass last winter, hitting 3-foot-deep trenches and getting stuck multiple times on their way to open terrain. It was almost enough to turn them back. “We weren’t going to get skunked,” Poritz says.

The Beartooths require another heavy commitment. Once the road is open, he’ll drive his rig to certain vantage points, then snowmobile 20 miles into backcountry to find the best terrain.

“Once you have kiter’s eyes and you see these huge plateaus and verticals, it’s jaw-dropping,” he says. “I try to spend as many days there as I can, every year.”

If it sounds like Poritz is obsessed, that’s because he is. He got the bug his first time out, when his nephew, a water kiter, strapped Poritz into a harness for the first time on the Oregon coast.

“I hadn’t even buckled my helmet and the next thing I knew—BOOM!—I’m slammed down into sand and my helmet goes flying,” Poritz says. “Next moment after that, I’m Superman out over the water, and for the next 20 minutes I’m getting teabagged.” (Teabagging is getting repetitively dunked in the water; it’s not a good thing).

“I finally got the kite under control,” he remembers, “steadied it overhead, and I started to drift downwind. I knew at that exact moment that I wanted to kite. This was something I needed to do.”

Poritz taught himself how to kite on ice and, soon after, snow. Before long he was traveling to Europe for weeklong workshops and competitions, and snowkiting throughout the West. His desire to improve eventually overtook every other aspect of his life, to the point of being unhealthy. Hardly a day went by with snow on the ground when Poritz wasn’t hooked to his kite.

“It got to the point where I was depraved,” he says. “I didn’t give a shit about hygiene. All I cared about was kiting. There’s a balance now, even though I still get in a lot of days. I used to get in even more, if you can believe that.”

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