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Never coming down

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


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At 7 a.m. the phone buzzes with a text from Poritz. Just hours earlier he’d been drinking beers and telling stories after making the best of a subpar day. There is no hangover.

“Bluebird day!” the text reads. “Have you looked outside? It’s blowing 17 with gusts to 22. I’m going to have a coffee breakfast and come get you when I’m done.”

Today’s the day he wants to explore Bootjack Hill for the first time, and he’s eager to get out there with a few friends before conditions change. Fellow kiters have mentioned the Island Park spot before, but Poritz had never made the drive. It’s difficult to reach, but there’s lots of open space on the hill’s north face and a pristine view over Henrys Lake. On this day, the sky is so clear you can see the Centennials and, from certain vantages, the Tetons.

Poritz drives his RV around the lake, snaking into a small neighborhood of vacation homes that appear to be empty for the season. A turnout offers a view of Bootjack, beyond a thicket of trees and two small fences. Poritz decides to drive to a clearing farther down the road.

Poritz parks his rig and jumps a fence carrying his skis, helmet, harness and kite. He suits up in a backyard, next to a swing set. He powers up the kite and boosts over several backyard fences before reaching Bootjack’s base. The traverse takes maybe five minutes.

Once he arrives at the hill, Poritz gets right down to exploring its terrain. He hardly ever slows or stops. When he does, he doesn’t say much. He can hear even less; he likes to crank music through speakers built into his helmet while he kites. One of his few respites is accompanied by that incomprehensible apology: if he had the cojones?

Another comes after a bad landing. He’s taken flight with a boost that looks like all his others, but his ski loses an edge on the landing. With the kite still powered up, the wind drags Poritz across the snow and up the hill. He looks like a baserunner sliding under a tag into second base until his ski’s edge crunches into the snow and he jolts back up. It’s hard to tell whether the worst of it came from the impact on the ground or the scraping across ice. Either way, he pauses to adjust his helmet and assure that he’s fine.

“It’s about this much softer than concrete,” he yells over his music, holding his fingers a centimeter apart, “but I’m smiling.”

It’s amazing Poritz doesn’t crash more often, considering what he does and how often he does it. He says he’s only been hurt once, last winter, when another squirrelly landing forced him to miss 11 days of the season with a sprained knee and hip. For an older snowkiter, though, he shows little wear.

“I see a really good physical therapist,” he says.

After more than two hours on Bootjack Hill, Poritz’s friends have left for lunch. He’s the only snowkiter in sight. He’s joined at one point by an eagle, near the top of the hill, that circles above his kite, but otherwise there’s not a single distraction. The wind picks up. The temperature creeps above freezing. He has no intention of leaving yet. The guy with no cojones doesn’t know when to quit.


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