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HOME arrow - Land management arrow Snow Kiting within Wilderness
Snow Kiting within Wilderness
Written by Scott Silver   
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Is snow-kiting within Designated Wilderness a legally permissible activity? That question was raised recently in a front page article within my local newspaper and the local Forest Service chose to punt rather than answer the question.

I am confident that snow-kiting it is absolutely prohibited by the Wilderness Act and the laws, rules and regulations promulgated to carry out the original intent of that Act. I am only somewhat less confident that land managers at both the local and national level will sooner, rather than later, declare snow-kiting to be a prohibited activity within Wilderness.

In 1962, the author of the Wilderness Act wrote:

“The purpose of the Wilderness Act is to preserve the wilderness character of the areas to be included in the wilderness system, not to establish any particular use.”

Today, America's leading advocates for proper Wilderness management, Wilderness Watch, writes:

The overarching legal mandate of the Wilderness Act is to preserve the Wilderness character of each area in the NWPS. Preserving Wilderness character is the essential key to keeping alive the very meaning of wilderness in America.

For those unfamiliar with the new and growing sport of snow kiting, I've pulled together five short videos. When viewed in the order presented, they show a progression from the basic to the extreme.

Here they are. Watch them and decide whether this activity is compatible with YOUR concept of "wilderness character."


Snowkiting. Club Overpower
Video shows the basics of snow kiting on flatland


Best Snowkiten 2008
Video shows a variety of kiting experiences

Flexifoil Snowkiting
Video shows mountain kiting similar to that now taking place within the Three Sisters Wilderness, here in Central Oregon

Snow Kite Masters
Video shows kiting as paragliding

Extreme Kiting Skiing

Video shows examples of extreme big mountain kiting


Comments (55) >>

Bill Foreman said:

  I love to hang glide and paraglide. I would also like to take up kite boarding. That takes place on water. However, I don't think kite skiing should take place in wilderness areas. Foot launched flight is not allowed in national parks by the CFR. It says that an aircraft may not be operated in a national park. It does not say anything about flying. You are not allowed to inflate a paraglider in park even if there is no way it can be flown at the particular location it is being inflated. A kite used for skiing is just a smaller version of a paraglider and is an aircraft as can be seen in the videos. The same regulations that apply in national parks should apply in wilderness areas. As with many activities that could take place in wilderness area that aren't appropriate in wilderness areas, such as off road driving, there are plenty of other places to have a good time.
January 29, 2009

Tony said:

  Don't know much about this but for some time I've been amazed at the possibilities for expeditions using kites (see http://kite-alaska.com/html/stelias.html). Here you can get into areas quickly for climbs... seems low impact as a means of travel.
January 30, 2009

Matt said:

  Tony is absolutely right as this sport harnesses the wind and is a form of sailing, a mode of transportation used by Native Americans (including Eskimos and people of the arctic) to travel across snow and ice for centuries. There is nothing mechanical about it, and Greenpeace and other environmental groups even promoted and applauded a snowkiter for a campaign tour through North Dakota promoting wind power and other environmental causes. It is a very low impact and eco-friendly way of travelling and enjoying the outdoors. It is not a mode of paragliding or hanggliding, so it shouldn't be lumped in that category in order to ban it.
January 30, 2009

michael said:

  Looks pretty peaceful and eco-friendly to me. Nothing more mechanical about this sport than tele-skiing in my opinion. One is not "preserving the wilderness character" more than the other.
January 30, 2009

Bill Worf said:

  It might be time for all of us to take a deep breath and remember that Congress established the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964 and spelled out in very clear terms their reason for doing so.

Congress said:

"Sec. 2. (a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System" (Emphasis Added)

Congress gave the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior Responsibility to keep the "Wilderness Character" at least as wild as it was at the time of Designation, Congress Said:

Sec, (3) (b)"Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, each agency administering any area designated as wilderness shall be responsible for preserving the wilderness character of the area and shall so administer such area for such other purposes for which it may have been established as also to preserve its wilderness character." (Emphasis Added)

Congress told the Agencies and the Public that some things such as structures, installations, motorized equipment and mechanical transport were illegal . However, the Congress did not say that anything not listed as illegal was automatically allowed The administering Agencies are responsible for deciding what is necessary to maintain the Wilderness Character. For example backpacking and hiking in Wilderness is legal but Managers have found it necessary (in some cases) to put visitation limits in place to keep from degrading the Wilderness Character.

This brings me to my comment for the day. - Snow Kiting was not even on the horizon when we drafted the Forest Service definition for "Mechanical Transport". So it was not a part of the "wilderness Character at the time of designation of the 3 Sisters Wilderness or any other Wilderness. If the Forest Service was to now allow it they would be guilty of allowing degradation of the wilderness Character.
January 31, 2009

Scott Silver said:

  The previous comment by Bill Worf merits a word of explanation. Pasted here is a short passage from his resume:

When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, I was sent to the FS National Office to head the development of Regulations and Policy for implementation of that Act. In 1969, I was assigned to the Regional Office in Missoula, Mt. as Director for Wilderness, Recreation & Lands. I retired from that position in November of 1981.
January 31, 2009

Bill said:

  Other than the use of snowmobiles, it seems like no wilderness harm was done. Why are you trying to decide for everyone? If the law was created in 64 perhaps it is time it was revisited. I love Oregon because I am given the wilderness as a playground. Are you going to move to prohibit hunting, fishing and camping next? These kite riders didn't leave any more of a footprint than you have by hiking on established trail. Moving to ban them seems very heavy handed, not to mention a bit hypocritical. The wilderness belongs to all of us.
February 01, 2009

Matt said:

  With that definition of "mechanized equipment" why are tele skis allowed? There are more mechanical moving parts in a tele ski than any kite
February 01, 2009

Pete said:

  This is an interesting discussion. I'm not an expert on kites, but it seems like any day-use non-motor sport that takes place on snow is much less impactful to the wilderness area than any form of backpacking or hiking on ground. Hiking and camping creates "trails" and campsites. Skiing tracks are generally erased within days. Wildlife is substantially less active above at higher elevations when there is snowpack, relative to summer hiking and climbing seasons. In the end, the important thing seems to be to minimize impact to the area rather than respect traditional views of an acceptable form of human visitation to a wilderness.
February 01, 2009

E Janson said:

  I agree with keeping our areas pristine, but these quotes from the Wilderness Act give the government seemingly limitless power. I hope the Act also provides a proper process to change rules which are already in place.
February 01, 2009

Wendy said:

  Like so many other questionable uses, if you could eliminate the motorized access, the use would go away. Would these guys ski in under their own power? Probably not. If only or two did, it probably wouldn't be an issue. It's only the proximity of easy drive up access that enables sports like this.

Amazing how people are always in search of new gear to use in the outside.
February 01, 2009

Mark said:

  Paragliding is already prohibited in Wilderness. This "snow-kiting" appears little different, except that sometimes skis touch the ground rather than feet. In fact, the aim of the skiers appears to be to get airborne for periods or several seconds or more. The fabric parafoils used in these videos are all similar to, or exactly the same as, the prohibited parafoils that are used to soar and glide long distances.

In any case, the parafoil (or "snow-kite") is a mechanical assistance device to facilitate a person moving along or up a snow slope, so it is just another form of mechanical transportation equipment forbidden by the Wilderness Act.

Also, there is no historical usage of these devices, as there was for ski gear, climbing gear, and packstock at the time of the passage of the Wilderness Act.
February 01, 2009

Gary M. said:

  Mark and Scott both make excellent points. I believe it is not legal. In any case, the spirit of the Wilderness Act is about primitive recreation and primitive means of transport. Snow-kiting does not meet that definition.
February 01, 2009

BLM retiree said:

  About 40 years ago, while cross country skiing in Tuolumne Meadows, a guy pulled out a small cargo parachute. It did pretty good at pulling you along with the wind direction, up till the time it went bonkers and tried to kill you. This was on my old Bonna 2400 skis.

X- country is definitely, like snow-showing - perfectly legal in wilderness.

Using snowmobile "shuttles" is clearly illegal in wilderness.

Flying a kite is actually NOT illegal in wilderness, and I've actually done it, though not on skis.

Landing an "aircraft" in wilderness is illegal, unless the activity was happening prior to wilderness designation. This mostly applied to Alaska, and some areas in the west where landing strips pre-existed in areas designated wilderness.

Legally- FAA does not yet regulate "kites" as "aircraft". Paragliders are I believe only restricted in certain airspace, and hang gliders are the same. I'd have to check on any new regs, as I know a number of folks wanted to regulate parasails, and hang gliders, but don't think it's happened yet.

Which leaves you with the problem of "is it an "aircraft" subject to the ban on flying. Local regulations in NPS DO regulate hang gliding, but that isn't the same as wilderness, other than I think the are currently prohibited.

Every time some new "toy" comes along,we face the same problem. Bikes and mountain bikes are obviously "machines" and "mechanical devices" and are NOT the wheelchairs that ARE permitted in wilderness, which goes back to the question on "high performance" designs, that as long as they can be used indoors, still qualify as "assistive devices" and are legal in wilderness.

The question (to a lot of folks) is regulation of aesthetics more than "mechanical means" with skis and kites, so I think it would still take a court decision,(on whether these are "aircraft" and might go either way, actually. You'd get a LOT of argument if you tried to say snowboards or skis carried in are verboten.

I certainly do see a potential problem, pest-like, but I think it would take additional definitions from the current wilderness regulations to get this certified as "illegal".

Needless to say also, heliskiing is definitely illegal in wilderness.
February 01, 2009

Jean said:

  They just have to take their macho, extreme, sporty selves to once quiet and wild places, don't they? Like parking SUVs on the canyonlands of the southwest.
February 01, 2009

Tim said:

  If hang gliding is banned in wilderness, how can kiteboarding be OK? It does seem to fly in the face (pun intended) of self-reliance and primitive recreation. Some legal insight would be helpful, but I ain't buyin' it...
February 01, 2009

DougT said:

  I watched the videos, and the paragliders are DEFINITELY FLYING, but under FAA that doesn't necessarily qualify them as "registered aircraft" Parasails do not have FAA numbers assigned. "ram aircraft" refers to the stability of the airfoil by the way, not the same as a ramjet, or scramjet engine, as in the V-1 or new hypersonic aircraft being designed.

I agree with you on the "Character" issue as well, but many today file complaints on the "aesthetic" values.

smilies/grin.gifevils advocate position: they are NOT creating a permanent human presence on the land and 2. They are not causing an impact on the physical environment, e.g. no exhaust emissions, rock or vegetation removal etc.

The little kites in the first tape do lift them off the ground, but not flying like all the other tapes of the actual paragliders.

I think I've seen this kiting as very popular in Scandinavia, which may be where those lake scenes with the cars running in the background were shot.

I would also go for F.S. NOT allowing the activity, as it is a recreational activity NOT PRIMITIVE in nature, as defined by the Act, and regulations.
February 01, 2009

Davy said:

  It's my understanding from working with the Forest Service in a partnership on trail crew that the wilderness designation prohibits any type of mechanical apparati. This includes anything with wheels, motors, or other complex machines. I'm not an expert on Snow-kiting (though it looks fun and I'd like to try it someday), but I think you may have your work cut out for you in convincing the powers that be that snow-kiting does not meet the criteria of prohibited wilderness activities. And if your arguments are going to be what I think they are, then you risk banning about half the camping gear in my pack.

Playing devil's advocate for a moment, I have to ask, what is your motivation in opposing snow-kiting?
February 01, 2009

Scott Silver said:

  >Playing devil's advocate for a moment,
>I have to ask, what is your motivation
>in opposing snow-kiting?

You might consider that I posed a question. I'll repeat it for your benefit and for that of others who have participated in this discussion. I asked: "Is snow-kiting within Designated Wilderness a legally permissible activity?" Fair question isn't it?

I would offer that there are several possible answers to that. Here are a few of the most obvious ones:

1) No, it is not legally permissible
2) Yes, it is legally permissible
3) Don't Know. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't.

I'm pleased that people are participating in this discussion and am especially pleased to see that a few people have made an attempt to answer the question I posed.

So let me play devil's advocate. If the correct interpretation of the law says that snow-kiting is not a legally permissible activity or if it were demonstrated that this activity was degrading Wilderness Character, then would would you resist efforts to exclude this activity from within designated Wilderness? If so, what would YOUR motivation be?
February 01, 2009

Jason said:

  just wondering if this"ORGANIZATION!? had anythin to do w the blatent disregaurd of the naturall and abundant source of wind power in the wilderness ereas we have accesed?

by trying to stop kiteboarding from hapining there?!!?

i can almost gaurenty "HARDLY A PERSON AT THIS "wild wilderness" has even ben hooked to a kite like this???/ well has anyone?

if u didnt, or dont have any issues w it then im sorry for the letter!? but if u did have something to do w it/? the los of the ball bute erea in bend then a BIG SHAME ON YOU!!!FOR NOT LETTING THE KITE COMNMUNITY HAVE ANY SAY IN THE MATTER!!!!????

in closing


if u think thats not "TRUE" than you have alot more to learn !!!!

so keep on trying to look down on this new and wilderness friendly sport, but the truth w set us freeeeeeeeeee!

February 01, 2009

kyle said:


To answer your question, I would say yes, snow-kiting is permissible within wilderness areas.

It seems misleading to show these youtube videos as 'evidence', just as if I showed extreme half-pipe skiing as evidence for why tele-skiing should be banned. The truth is, both sports (skiing and snow-kiting) are multi-disciplinary and have long histories in the US.
Furthermore the goal of snow-kiting is not to fly-but to sail. Kites are recognized by as sails by many government authorities, but by none as aircraft.

Kiting is mechanized only to the extent that skiing is--which is to say that they have both become evolved since the inception of the wilderness act.

There is far less impact than hiking, which scars the earth.

Lastly, I'd just like to point out that snowkiting would make a legitimate search and rescue operation in some wilderness areas.
February 01, 2009

brian said:

  This is an interesting debate and what the unfortunately is going to be intertwined with the interpretation and wording of a 40 year old law. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a kiteboarder but have not tried snowkiting. I have logged hundreds and hundreds of miles hiking, climbing and skiing within designated wilderness. I am somewhat confused why some posters declare that the activity is clearly not in line with the wilderness act (Mr. Bill Worf). The character of wilderness is important but the mere presence of people in a wilderness changes its character. Seeing someone snow kite on some big open flat would have the same effect on the wilderness as someone telesking down the same area.
The posted videos are not really representative of the majority of snowkiter activities, just as videos of skiers hucking themselves off 100 foot cliffs do not encapsulate what snow sking is about. Very few snow kiters are able to jump and sustain hangtimes or "flight" as someone called it. 95% of the time you are solidly on the ground being pulled along by the wind.

I think it is important that we remember that the WA was established to protect wilderness areas for their continued usage and benefits that they provide. While snowkiting may seem frivolous to some, it is no more frivolous than wilderness pursuits that others enjoy such as hiking, snow shoeing, camping. It is also a completely no trace activity. More so than camping or pack animal usage. You can rest assured that the snowkiters that I know have a deep appreciation for the wild areas and embrace many of the same beliefs that those that wish to ban the activity do. These activities are a source of inspiration and a means to escape the mechanized world and trapping of everyday life. Wilderness areas are a source of inspiration and wonder for snowkiters, since the acitvity is completely, silent, non polluting, and leaves no evidence in the wilderness other than tracks in the snow, it seems a little unfair that people who know little about the activity or the people that enjoy it are calling for the sport to be banned. The wild areas are for everyone to enjoy, not just those that pursue the same activities as you.

February 01, 2009

brian said:

  Jean's comment " They just have to take their macho, extreme, sporty selves to once quiet and wild places, don't they? Like parking SUVs on the canyonlands of the southwest."

Just as an FYI Jean, throwing stereotypes around and and making baseless judgments of other user groups provides little assistance in resolving the issue at hand. I would hope that other people would look at the issue a little more closely and try to put the shoe on the other foot instead of making knee jerk reactions.

Perhaps I should post a video of my recent kiteboarding trip to mexico where we held a huge competition that raised THOUSANDS of dollars for the local schools and these same "macho extreme sporty selves" could be seen painting school buildings, planted hundreds of trees, building fences, and essentially helping the community of a kite boarding place that is dear to many of us.
Just as not everyone that goes hiking wears birkenstocks, doesn't eat meat, and decries every other use as less pure, all kiteboarders are not guzzeling mt. dew, parading recklessly across the landscape, and shouting YE HAWWW at the tops of their lungs.

February 01, 2009

Steve Miller said:

  I've yet to take up kiting, but will soon I am sure, but kiting of any kind does not belong in Wilderness Areas.

There are any number of appropriate places for appropriate activities, but kiting and wilderness do not fit together.
February 01, 2009

Pete said:

  Others have said this, but let me emphasize that those videos are not at all representative of the activity in question here. Those vids are highly edited, with many stunts being performed by the same small group of semi-professional snow kiting obsessives.

The reality of snow kiting is more along the lines of middle-aged men cruising quietly along the snow. Most can't jump very high, and even fewer chose to do so. Finally, the laws of physics dictate that for every ten seconds you spend with your feet off the snow, you'll spend ten minutes tacking back upwind to the make up the ground you lost.

So to summarize.
Those videos - edited, scored, distorting and misleading.

Reality - quiet and safe way for folks to get a little fresh air and exercise.
February 01, 2009

Allen said:

  Scott's initial question seems rhetorical to me rather than genuine. I'm not a legal expert and will leave it to the authorities to decide if it's 'leagally permissable'.

However, I have snow kited at the area once (near Ball Butte) and can say that don't I believe the sport should be banned there.

Here are my observations;
1. The idea that this area is a 'quiet wild place' is not at all true. It's directly across from Moon Mountain. If you have ever been there during the winter, you would know that it's buzzing with snow machines ALL THE TIME. A favorite spot for high marking. I like to back country ski on Ball Butte, but this is hardly a wilderness experience. You'll get more peace and quiet and less exahust smell in Drake Park! It's not going to change with or without a ban on snow kiting.

2. The idea that there are lots of other places to snow kite is also not true. Ideally, the activity requires steady wind and large wide open space covered with snow and devoid of rocks and trees. The area around Ball Butte is pretty ideal in this respect.

I'm a big supporter of the idea of protecting land from development and exploitation. I enjoy doing a variety of activies in the outdoors like back packing, hiking, rock climbing, mt biking, skiing, windsurfing, and kite boarding. Unfortunatly I'm less enthusiastic about the Wilderness designation because it's so restrictive. It's issues like this that create opposition to new wilderness designation - and I think that is unfortunate.
February 01, 2009

William said:

  This points to the basic relationship of the culture to the natural world. What we call "The Wild" is not for the general run of Americans something to foster reflection regarding our place in it and the larger scheme. It's about thrills. The musical score underlines that.
February 01, 2009

Doug said:

  Really absurd stuff that the feds let it go on in the first place
February 01, 2009

Khaled Hosseini said:

  The only other government that I know of that banned flying kites was the Taliban. This deep philosophy of 'The Wild' seems just as extreme.
February 01, 2009

Tom said:

  Looks friggin cold. Add this to the base jumping and it sure looks like we need some policy from the agencies here...

I thought there already was a no-parachutes rule? Might be a good administration to get some better clarification in. Hard to tell though.
February 01, 2009

TM said:

  In light of the discussion regarding human flight-forms in Wilderness, I agree with Scott and others that paragliders and hangliders are equipment specifically designed to be transport "aircraft" even though propelled by the wind and human energy.

I don't know that there is evidence that parachutes qualify as "aircraft landings" in wilderness, and so I agree we need to clarify what may be 'legal' under the Wilderness Act (and/or other wilderness legislation) vs. what some may personally feel is somehow 'morally right.'

To further that discussion, please review this video out of Norway, in which people are jumping free-form off of very high cliffs but then soaring (flying) for as long as they wish without any mechanical means other than that they are wearing clothing called a "wing suit." When they wish to finally come back to land, they pull a parachute cord.

Whatever you may think of the political or legal ramifications, the video for which a link is provide below is astounding (and affirms for me that there is great genetic diversity within the human genome between such folks who jump off cliffs and myself!!)

February 01, 2009

Martin said:

  Those attempting to lump snowkiting and skiing into the same category are ignoring a critical difference in equipment usage. A winter skier utilizes his skis as a means to experience the WILDERNESS. A snowkiter is utilizing the Wilderness to experience his KITE! Claim what they wish, the snowkiters activity and experience are not, by any means, dependent on Wilderness Areas or Wilderness values. And to state that a skier in the wilderness has the same visual impact as huge brightly colored sails is simply absurd.

This activity could just as well been coined para-boarding instead kite-boarding or snow-kiting. These 'kites' are essentially para-gliders. From snow-kiting web pages, comments referencing “lift and hang time”, “flight path”, and “harnesses that are comfy for long flights” are repeatedly found.

Snow-kiting is powered travel - and should be kept out of the Wilderness.

It’s great that a few proponents of this activity went to Mexico and helped paint school walls. But that has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion regarding the appropriateness and legality of these neon wings zipping across (and above) the Wilderness. So Brian, are you trying to imply since you and your buddies are ‘good guys’ you are entitled to do whatever you want, wherever you please?
February 01, 2009

Scott said:

  TM -

Thanks for pointing folks to that base jumping video. True, it is quite amazing.

That said, it didn't strike me as being so very different than the Extreme Kiting Skiing video seen above. It appears that the guys in their squirrel suits are more gutsy than the extreme kiters and I presume that the base-jumpers are getting a way bigger adrenaline rush. But the two activities seem more similar than different.

So if base-jumping is illegal within Wilderness, which I hope is a universally accepted statement, then from a legal / regulatory standpoint, is there anything that differentiate the activity depicted in the Extreme Kiting Skiing video from the activity depicted in the base jumping video you shared with us?
February 01, 2009

kyle said:

  Martin:"So Brian, are you trying to imply since you and your buddies are ‘good guys’ you are entitled to do whatever you want, wherever you please?"
This is a pretty unfair comment. It it not a logical extension from what Brian said at all. He just means to say that kiters are nice folks, not techno-blasting adrenaline junkies that are depicted in the videos that have been selected by someone who knows little about the sport.
As a snow kiter, it is difficult to have folks who know so little about the sport disparage it as 'extreme'--and compare it to a wing suit base jump! A quick you-tube search of any sport will not be a reliable source of information. Perhaps I can provide you with a more realistic view of the sport.
Even though I grew up as an alpine ski racer, I've given up on the sport because it is too dangerous to be enjoyable, especially considering the avalanche danger. Instead, I really enjoy snow kiting in Oregon with my wife, and in Montana with my Brother--all in wilderness areas. It reminds me of x-country skiing, which I also enjoy. It is a means to experience and tour the wide open rolling hills of the wilderness.
Snow-kiting is about sailing on the snow. The kite is your sail, and the board or skis are your 'craft'. You use the resistance of the snow to travel upwind and tour the wilderness. It is silent, wind powered skiing. There are very, very few individuals who are able to jump for more than 1-5 seconds. Bigger jumps require sloped terrain where brave kiters jump and glide downhill--or potentially off of a cliff--if they are so inclined. These folks are professionals, or are in a league of their own--lets call it extreme kiting. This is a sub-discipline. We can't lump everyone in the sport together with the most extreme individuals.
I hope that this can shed a little light onto the diversity of the sport. Just as not all alpine skiers drop 100ft cliffs for 'kicks', nor do snowkiters. The majority simply like to tour about and experience the beautiful countryside. In fact, many kiters wouldn't blink if the 'jumping off of cliffs' were prohibited.
I would like to pose a question--let's say that jumping were prohibited. Should it be illegal to simply sail around in the snow?
To close I'd like to add that, from my perspective as a muti-disiplinary wilderness area user, hiking seems by far to be the most impactful activity I take part in within the wilderness. When I kite, there is no trace at all after the wind covers my tracks, but when I hike I am participating in scarring the earth. I don't mean to say there should be no hiking, of course. I only hope to show how different my view of each activity is, as someone who participates in both activities.
February 01, 2009

kyle said:

  Bill Worf:
Thanks for your contribution, Bill. It's nice to have someone making points who has a distinguished history in the parks.
You said that: "If the Forest Service was to now allow it they would be guilty of allowing degradation of the wilderness Character."
This suggests that no new activities can every be permitted in a wilderness area. For example, should I not be allowed to snowshoe into a wilderness area peak, and then snowboard down? Simply because snowboarding was not invented yet?
I will be interested in your response.
February 01, 2009

Martin said:


My comment “So Brian, are you trying to imply since you and your buddies are ‘good guys’ you are entitled to do whatever you want, wherever you please?" is perfectly fair. Being good guys (or tech-o blasting adrenalin junkies) has nothing to do with the issue.

Providing snowmobile shuttles up to the Wilderness boundary, setting up tents and shelters, and having a Kite Festival INSIDE the Wilderness is contrary to the very spirit of the Wilderness Act and Wilderness values. I have nothing against kite-boarding – it simply belongs on the other side of the boundary.

February 01, 2009

Brian said:

  I guess in the end it seems we are debating each others ideas about what we think a wilderness is. The fact of the matter is that kiteboarding and snow kiting are not forms of flight and they are not hang gliders or paragliders. Kites are neither designed or intended for prolonged flight. Comparing snowkiting with base jumping or parachuting, well that is just plain stupid.

As stated above, the authorities will have to decide whether or not the think it should remain illegal. Hopefully, there decisions will not be based on a couple of random videos gleaned from the internet.
February 02, 2009

Tim said:

  Quote from Martin:

"Providing snowmobile shuttles up to the Wilderness boundary, setting up tents and shelters, and having a Kite Festival INSIDE the Wilderness is contrary to the very spirit of the Wilderness Act and Wilderness values. I have nothing against kite-boarding – it simply belongs on the other side of the boundary."

The kite festival was set up outside the Wilderness boundary and we only allowed no more than 12 kites into the wilderness at a time, just as the forest service regulates any group or expedition into the Wilderness and we left no trace. Not 100 yards from where we were set up there was some backcountry explorers with tents set up and camp fires ablaze.

It is sad that if you are a backcountry skier/snowboarder/backpacker, you can use snowmobiles to access the Wilderness Boundary, use all that technology has to offer to keep you warm and dry and get you to the top of all the peaks so you can ski or slide down, set up tents, build snow structures and have campfires. But if your an avid backcountry skier that uses a kite to enjoy the tranquility of the wilderness, all the above is forbidden.
February 02, 2009

Alan said:

  If you're offended by the sight of a kite in the wilderness, then you really need to get a life.
February 02, 2009

Everett Rowdy said:

  The National Park Service has addressed this problem appropriate by adopting the following policy:

All new technologies must be assessed and approved before they are allowed in National Parks.

It would be proactive for the USFS, BLM and USF&WS to do the same. This way we are not trying to stuff a genie back in the bottle.
February 02, 2009

Matt T. said:

  I've grown up here in Oregon and have spent a lot of time enjoying our Pristine wilderness area's. I understand the need to keep wilderness area's (and all forest land) as pristine as humanly possible.

I would like to share my experience with snowkiting. I have been snowboarding for over ten years and kiting for about three years. One of the main reason's I love snowkiting is becuase it is perfectly harmless to the enviroment. The kites are quiet, the only sound is the snow ski's/board across the snow. Birds and other wildlife are NOT overall concerned as the kites do not look like a threat.

Search and Rescue can use kites to cover up to 80% more ground. Kites can be easily packed into a day pack, And in case of emergency, kites can be used to make splints,tents, and even sleds to haul out an injured person.In area's such as Mt.Hood, A kite can be used By Search and Rescue to climb up hill, and with minimal energy used.

My expierience with "gliding" is that kites are NOT designed for this type of canopy load. The lines are NOT designed to support a person for flight. This is why you see these video's on youtube, as they are professional stuntmen and usually expert paragliders as well as kiters.

These are just some of the positive aspects to the sport, there is a lot of potential that has yet to be discovered. But many organizations such as Greenpeace and Sierra club are in support of Kiting.

Thank you,
Matt T.

February 02, 2009

Pete said:

  Martin said:
"This activity could just as well been coined para-boarding instead kite-boarding or snow-kiting. These 'kites' are essentially para-gliders. From snow-kiting web pages, comments referencing “lift and hang time”, “flight path”, and “harnesses that are comfy for long flights” are repeatedly found."

This really is an uninformed comment by someone who neither paraglides nor kiteboards.

Kiteboading kites are not made for sustained flight. The manufacturers of such gear state this repeatedly. A kiteboarder considers 10 seconds off the surface to be a big jump. A paraglider soars for hours. A kiteboarding harness bears little resemblance to a paraglider's.

Kiteboarding and paragliding only look similar to each other when the latter is performed by one of the 20 or so people on the planet who have the skills and temperament to execute extremely long jumps. That one such video is posted here as an example of the type of kiteboarding that is supposedly ongoing right now in Three Sisters is evidence that some on this forum are perhaps not so interested in an honest and fair discussion.
February 02, 2009

Sno-Kite said:

Jumping is part of snow kiting, but a small part for most participants. To say that the sport is 'all about flying' is untrue, it's just a small part of the sport. Is Olympic Gymnastics a 'flying' sport, since it's all about jumps.

The extreme videos you've unfairly included show don't reflect the way 99% of riders snow kite, just like showing the Olympic Downhill would not characterize regular downhill skiers. Here's a video of me snowkiting, and 'jumping'. While I'm proud of my jumps, honestly, as you'll see the 3-5' high jumps that most riders perform are by no means hang-gliding or paragliding

Kiters are very responsible, adventurous, and innovative outdoors people. Most kiters have a long outdoors resume, and are involved in many outdoors sports, including hiking, climbing and skiing.

For new spectators, the kite is the only thing they see. I can understand that, heck it's what got me into the sport. It's beautiful. But I didn't get into kiting just to fly kites, like many kiters, I realized the potential the kite offered as a new way to ski and snowboard outside of crowded, smelly, over-developed, pollution filled resorts that permanently damage the landscape. For experienced riders, the wilderness experience, and riding powder is what a snow kiting day is all about. The kite just helps facilitate the day in a new, personal and very environmentally friendly way.
February 10, 2009

Sno-Kite said:

  OK, wait a minute. I just watched those last two videos.

These videos are of Speed Skiing, which is a really different sport than Snow Kiting. Yes, speed skiing is paragliding like. Let's be clear, there are probably only 100 people world-wide that participate in that sport, compared to over 500,000 that are active kiters.
February 10, 2009

Dave Grossman said:

Thank you for posing this important question. I have been wondering when this day would come.

I feel that snowkiting is not only perfectly in tune with wilderness activity, I think it is exactly the type of clean, renewable resource activity that we need to be supporting. Snowkiting is exceptionally low impact, quiet, and pollution free. It is excellent exercise and an outdoor activity that is accessible and practiced by people as young as 8 and as old as 70!

The sport has an amazing diversity of opportunities. Snowkiting can be used as an access tool to climb mountains so that they can be skied or snowboarded back down. It can be used as an expeditionary tool to cross huge distances efficiently and swiftly. It can be radical and freestyle, but there are MANY more people who just love cruising as they would on cross country skis or snowshoes.

As plenty of people have pointed out, the videos you cite are a very skewed sample of the sport. To say that what you saw in those videos is snowkiting is like saying that Americans only eat McDonalds hamburgers after spending 15 minutes parked outside the golden arches. I understand there is some confusion between snowkiting and other sports like paragliding and speed kiting. Although, on a cursory glance they appear to use similar equipment, there is very little they share in practice. Just like ice fishing, trolling and fly fishing all use fishing rods, they are all VERY different in practice. Paragliding and speed flying are air sports like base jumping. Snowkiting is a land based activity like skiing or snowboarding. However snowkiting harnesses to natural forces, gravity and wind power, for fun and when practiced by an elite group of top freestyle athletes, they can make huge jumps and even harness the wind to prolong their air-time. It is so spectacular that people put videos of it on Youtube in amazement. These tricks are the exception. There are also lots of videos of people cruising, expeditioning, and using a kite for backcountry access to get more ski runs and less hiking.

The history of harnessing the wind to move across snow and ice long predates the 1964 congressional Wilderness Act. Almost anywhere there is snow and wind (most of the northern and southern latitudes) humans have sought to use the wind to help move across the snow. 1940's films of the 10th Mountain Division training in the high alpine snow of Colorado show men opening their jackets to catch a tailwind. I recently met a gentleman in his 60's who explained in great detail how he would use his open umbrella to skate home from school on the frozen canal near Montreal. In the 60's pioneers in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the US were experimenting with military surplus parachutes to harness the wind with skis on the snow. There many more examples I could cite. The technology has improved, but the goal is the same.

In 1986, I took up snowboarding after skiing for thirteen years (learned at 3). This was a sport that was looked down upon by almost everyone and I initially got lots of rude comments, but after a couple of years, everyone wanted to know about snowboarding and was it hard to learn. Because it was early in its development process, it was primarily embraced by people who were looking for something different and because people didn't understand it, it was banned at ski resorts across the nation. Slowly people started to realize that snowboard was not only fun and safe, but it also created a whole new way of looking at and enjoying the mountain. As a result, snowboarding saved the ski industry, is a world-wide sport that is enjoyed by kids as young as 3 (I think that is too young to learn to snowboard) and as old as 90 (I hope I can snowboard at that age) and can be found at every ski area in North America. Being anti-snowboarding was a popular thing for a short while. Now it is just acting ignorant.

As to the question of the definition of wilderness... I feel that wilderness should be set aside from the development that is plaguing much of the world. It provides provide critical wildlife habitat and provide places for humans to reconnect with the larger world and find relief from the noise and stress of the modern world. When snowkiters play in the wilderness, they do so quietly (excluding the occasional joyous hoot), lightly, and cleanly. They are tuned in very precisely with the wind and the snow, carefully observant of the shifting weather and mindfully aware of their surroundings. You will also be hard pressed to find a snowkiter who isn't beaming with pure happiness.

I pose some new questions...

- What can we do as snowkiters to better educate the general public about this sport?
- What about your initial impressions of snowkiting is in conflict with preserving Wilderness Character?
- What do you perceive about snowkiting threatens wilderness for current and future generations?
- Isn't banning snowkiting, a winter activity that shares much in common with backcountry skiing, and snowboarding actually "establishing a particular use" in direct conflict with the previously stated intentions of the author of the Wilderness Act?

Fresh winds and clean snow,
smilies/grin.gifave Grossman, Publisher
smilies/grin.gifrift Snowkite Magazine

In the spirit of transparency, I am an avid snowkiter who uses my kites to explore and travel the beautiful, quiet places of my home state of Colorado. My passion is also my business and have recently co-founded a company to provide content and information about snowkiting. Our first products include Drift Snowkite Magazine and the companion website. One of the primary goals of Drift is to educate winter recreation enthusiasts about the sport and the huge diversity of activities snowkiting creates.
February 17, 2009

Dave Grossman said:

  Not sure why my name and the magazine both had smilies inserted... but that is what I look like when I kite!

smilies/grin.gifave Grossman
February 17, 2009

d holden said:

  Lots of word play semantics. Unfortunately, snowkiters are an extremley small minority and the sport is not understood.

You could use the 1964 act to ban gortex, high visibility day-glo apparel colors, gps, advanced composite ski gear or modern all terrain wheel chairs.

'Ski touring can now only be done with waxed wood skis, leather boots and organic clothing.'

Snowboarding wasn't around in 64 and certainly used mechanical means to facility travel, and gravity. Should it be banned?

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." - Ben Franklin

February 17, 2009

Diggy said:

  "The overarching legal mandate of the Wilderness Act is to preserve the Wilderness character of each area in the NWPS. Preserving Wilderness character is the essential key to keeping alive the very meaning of wilderness in America."

When I go into the wilderness I cherish its character and solitude and peace it provides me. The wind has been used as a means of travel since ancient time. To me this seems to be a low impact and appropriete use of a winderness area.

"secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. "

Not being born in 1964 it seems as if this member of the future generation is being denied approtpreite use of this resource.

I am curious as to why the author chose such sensational videos to demonstrate snow kiting. Most kiter in the wilderness I would be small groups simply enjoying nature, treading lightly, and using caution to avoid injury.

"Fair question isn't it?"

Also it seems decietful the claim of "Fair question isn't it?" when it is framed so unfairly.

Kind Regards,
February 17, 2009

Greg said:

  I feel that this sport shouldnt be banned just as skiiing or snowboarding or hiking or camping shouldnt be banned. There are those of you who are twisting the law to suit your personal agenda. Snowkiting is a GREEN sport. We are not destroying anything. To say we are just enjoying our kite may be true but no more then someone enjoying their snowboard or skis. Someone isnt hiking up a hill to enjoy its beauty they are hiking it to enjoy the ride down.
Those in this kite club observed the rules. They kept the mechanized equipment out of bounds and only let a limited number of kiters into the area. What is so wrong? Who can say how one enjoys nature as long as nothing is being disturbed? Start banning things like snowkiting and you might as well ban any kind of human interference with nature.
February 18, 2009

Scott Sunn said:

  This thread is really disappointing to read, on many levels...

I have been on this planet for 35 years, and I have been appalled by the way we have treated our wild areas. We have let industry and development run wild, do untold damage to eco-systems, and deface most of our wildlife. Those areas that are not designated "wild" are snared by roads, powerlines, factories, fences, buildings and powerlines. For this reason I have always considered myself an environmentalist - someone who wants to place restrictions on those interests that profit on damaging our remaining wild areas.

And so it sickens me that people in this group are spending there efforts targeting snowkiters, whose impact on the land is purely aesthetic and temporary at that. Truth be told, you are alienating people who would otherwise be your ally when a real threat comes along. Most kiters I know take pride in actually knowing their wild areas, unlike the yuppie masses driving back and forth to ski resorts. They appreciate that cool old tree, that unique rock formation, the eagle on the wing. They have more interest than most in keeping powerlines, factories and roads out of open spaces that could be explored and enjoyed quietly with their skis and kites. They tend to be the type of person to clean up after the hillbillies who leave their gun casings and beer cans littered throughout our wild areas. They also vote on important rulings regarding wildlife. And here they haven't even had a chance to voice an opinion let alone vote... It appears guilty until proven innocent is the m.o., huh?

From one Scott to another, shame on you. You are doing the wild more harm than good in this instance. When it comes to protecting the wild - united we stand, divided we fall. Snowkiting is not the enemy, not when timber, mining, fishing, and development still push everyday to tap the wild areas.

February 19, 2009

Leo said:

  This thread disgusts me. As a snowkiter myself, I take pride in knowing that at the end of the season, the only impact I have on mother nature is absolutely nothing! I tried hard to use the most efficient form of transportation to go to my snowkite location. I didn't use motorized mean to get up to the slopes. There is now machinery needed to get the location ready as it would required for ski slopes. Seeing the damages done by snowmobiles and the housing developments next all the ski resorts, I am even more proud of my part take in snowkiting. In fact, I am going to push for regulating the emission of snowmobiles. Snowkite can also be used in promoting wind energy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpFLLDEYFR0 /> Scoot, you seem to skipped this youtube vid. What's your excuse? Why don't you guys focus on the real problems such as hunting and snowmobiling?
As for Bill Wort's comments. Bill, there is no rule under the constitution that allows you to be born. Why are you here on earth? How much carbon emissions had you produced throughout your life and how much damages have you done to mother earth because of your birth? And what have you done to repay mother nature?

~Leo Chan: A true environmentalist who thinks that promoting snowkiting is the best way to bring about environmental protection.
April 11, 2009

John said:

  That last video "Extreme Kiting Skiing" is NOT snowkiting, that is a separate sport (called swooping I believe) Those are not kites, they are actually small parachutes. Don't confuse that video with snowkiting.

99% of snowkiters spend 99% of their time on the ground, trying to ban snowkites as aircraft is laughable!
Snowkiters have little impact on the environment and far less than most other users of the wilderness.

I cannot fathom why anyone would want to ban them.

April 11, 2009

Dave said:

  The only remotely legitimate argument from the legalese standpoint is the decision of whether a snkowkite constitutes aircraft or not. This is a stretch even by your thinly veiled imaginations. A closer look at the anti-kiter arguments really boils down to "I". The anti's don't like them - so - "I" think we should outlaw them because it doesn't fit with "my" definition of pristine.

Its simple - if you outlaw kiting in the wilderness then every other form of human recreation or impact needs to be likewise outlawed. The 'bile access argument is likewise a totally false argument. If you can 'bile to x-country ski from the access point at a wilderness boundary then you can 'bile with a kite TO THE BOUNDARY & NOT BEYOND. If you go beyond you are already breaking the law no matter what form of recreation you pursue inside.

Martin you really need to get over yourself
April 28, 2009

Brian said:

  First, Everyone commenting should spend a day Snowkiting, and getting familiar with the equipment, so that they can give an educated and experienced response to this question.
Snowkiting is a ZERO impact sport. It is completely wind powered and it is in no way similar to any known form of aviation. Ben Franklin flew kites, he was not an aviator.
If it is about mechanical modes, then specific kite models may be banned, while other "non-mechanical" kites should be legal... as these style of dedicated Snowkites have simply lines (like a thin climbing rope) and cloth material (like a tent). Climbing lines and tents are currently legal in wilderness.

If we are looking at all modern equipment added after the 64 Wilderness ban, then all Ski equipment should be banned in the wilderness also. This would include any hinged bingding like TELE and AT as well as any releasable ski binding. Snowboard bindings and many snow shoes use mechanical type ratchets to secure the human to them... so these should also be banned.

So, if it is a question of being mechanized, then most kites would not fall into this category. Nor would it be pigeon holed as an aircraft, as it is simply wind powered cross country skiing.

Now I would agree that bright colors should be banned in the wilderness, both tents and kites. Luckily I have both an Olive drab kite and a solid white kite...so I guess I might be legit.

Thankfully there are many other locations to Snowkite, like Siberia and Alaska, but if its banned in the continental US we will be limiting the opportunities for Americans to enjoy an eco-friendly Green powered sport.

June 08, 2009

joe said:

  It's nice to see that a lot of people commenting here seem in favor of snowkiting in these areas. Unfortunately, the ones who seem most opposed to it are often the ones who 1) know little about the sport and 2) have some affiliation with the Forest Service or some other authoritative body in this debate. The rift and misunderstandings between those who practice the sport and those who are tasked with regulating it seems to be the big issue here.

I participate in a lot of these sports: hiking, backcountry skiing, paragliding, speedriding (sport in the fifth video above...NOT kiting as its wrongly named by whoever stole and posted the footage), and most recently snow kiting. I am hoping to make a trip down to Bend this winter to snow kite because I know that Bald Butte is a very special place where all the conditions necessary to kite are present. Places like this are not as plentiful (within wilderness or not) as some above might think. A lot of things have to align in terms of weather patterns, elevation and terrain to make a great kite spot, which is why they are so special when you find one.

Up here in Western Washington, we have a similar issue on Mt. Baker (designated as part of a wilderness area). The Mt Baker National Recreation Area was established a few years back which allows snowmobilers to travel up to ~9000 ft on the volcano. This area was established right at the base of the main south side climbing route. What you get is a mix of people making traditional, human powered climbs of the mountain while sledders highmark and throttling their way halfway up the route on two-strokes. Hardly a wilderness experience. The area is within what was once wilderness, and talking with a very candid ranger, it seems that the inclusion of the snowmobiling in the NRA activities boiled down to a large monetary donation by the snowmobilers. Basically, any activity seems to be fair game if your group's got the cash to "buy the rights".

This is hardly in line with "secur[ing] for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness." The issue boils down to understanding and tolerating each others' views, both those using the land in modern ways and those regulating it in the modern day. Travelling in any wilderness area, you don't see much of any gear circa '64. Everything has improved by leaps and bounds since then, no matter what sport you are discussing.

November 09, 2009
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