A lifelong skier, snowboarder, and recreational windsurfer, I was drawn to Hood River, Oregon, because of its epic outdoor recreation. Where else can you ski on a glacier in the morning and windsurf the winds of the famous Columbia River Gorge in the afternoon?
I experienced the emerging sport of kiteboarding here in the 1990s, when I saw riders flying parachute-sized kites attached to 100-foot lines on a control bar, speeding across the river on modified wakeboards. When I saw one of the first professional kiteboarders jump 30 feet into the air for a 5-second hang-time while flipping and spinning, I thought, “Sign me up!” After a few lessons, I was hooked.
I soon found myself thinking, “Why not use this gigantic kite to pull myself around the mountains on a snowboard?”
A quick trip to Palmer Glacier on Mount Hood proved my theory correct. With 20 knots of wind, the power of the kite was so intense that I was able to ascend the hill faster than on a high-speed chairlift. No lift ticket required!
I was now able to combine my passions for kiteboarding, snowboarding, and mountaineering to help pioneer snowkiting in North America and explore new locations that very few people had ever seen.
Snowkiting grew popular over the next few years. While most snowkiters aimed for wide-open frozen lakes, I was more interested in exploring the mountains.
Finding ideal mountainous snowkite terrain – void of trees – proved challenging in the Pacific Northwest. The tree line goes up to approximately 5,000 feet. Only a handful of mountains in the region exceed that height.
However, there is one major exception – Mount St. Helens.
Aaron and the Volcano
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens blew its top with a dramatic eruption. Lives were lost, trees were decimated, and more than 1,000 vertical feet were permanently erased from the top of the mountain (now 8,366 feet in elevation).
That explosion helped create the ideal snowkite terrain – rolling terrain that butts up to one of the most beautiful and unique mountain-scapes in the world. I can only describe Mount St. Helens as magical every time I’m in her presence.
In winter, several feet of snow cover the ash-covered landscape. The roads to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument close, so accessing the mountain is nothing short of an adventure.
Most of my snowkite expeditions to date had been as simple as hopping out of the car near a snowy field, rigging the kite, and off I go. But at Mount St. Helens, the nearest I could get to the mountain was 5 miles away.
There is no better way to access 2 feet of fresh powder, however, than with a 150-horsepower snowmobile.