BOISE, Idaho — Snowkiting is a sport that uses a large kite to pull a person across the snow. The rolling Camas Prairie in Idaho, with its reliable snowpack and steady wind, is an ideal place to do it.
"The main appeal is nearly limitless terrain," said Ryan Waite, owner of Idaho Kite Sports in Boise.
Waite, one of the sport's pioneers, is quickly seeing word spread throughout the kiting community how uniquely suited the Camas Prairie is for snowkiting. Aside from snow and wind, it's easily accessible off a paved road and only about 75 miles from Boise.
Rebecca Pennington and Cody Richardson recently traveled from Sebastopol to spend a week snowkiting on the prairie.
"It's awesome," Pennington said. "There's rolling hills forever and no trees."
Waite said in recent years he's seen an increase in travelers to the area. They come from throughout the country and occasionally Europe.
The increase also corresponds with a growing number of people getting into the sport since Waite got started less than a decade ago.
"When I first started, there was about five people out here doing it, and now there might be 75 people out," he said.
Most snowkiters are looking for a new way to enjoy one of their favorite sports or extend their season.
"If you're a good wakeboarder or skier or snowboarder, all you have to do is figure out the kite," said Chris Philp of Boise.
They also find the freedom attractive. So long as the wind is blowing, you have a free lift ticket that never expires.
"You're riding from the time you put your kite up until the time you take it down," Waite said.
Snowkiters can travel uphill or downhill and can search far and wide across the landscape for fresh powder.
Waite said the sport attracts people seeking different experiences. One might want to cruise across the wind-swept landscape, while another might want to perform tricks, or catch big air.
"There's multiple directions this sport can go," he said.
For 17-year-old John Perry, kiting is year-round activity.
His family owned a kite store when he was younger, and he grew up flying kites that got progressively larger as he got older.
He now rides on snow and water and competes in kiting competitions. He likes the freedom the kite brings.
"You can do all the same tricks of wakeboarding and snowboarding, but you control the power source. You're in control," he said.