To Cross the Moon, Snowkiting Expedition across North Dakota, a Success
To Cross the Moon ("2XTM"), the snowkiting expedition and educational tour that captivated the attention of much of the state of Dakota, culminated on Monday 15 January with a post expedition party to celebrate the greatest winter expedition to cross North Dakota since Lewis and Clark.
For the past two weeks, extreme athletes, Sam Salwei and Jason Magness (both of Grand Forks), braved harsh winter conditions snowkiting across North Dakota. Their intention was to harness the wind to travel across the state, from the Canadian border to the South Dakota border. Meanwhile, a support crew travelled to towns along the route providing free snowkiting lessons and demos as well as educational presentations on North Dakota's wind energy potential.
The educational presentations reached over 1000 people from across the state, primarily students from the communities of Crosby, Williston, New Town, Bismarck, and Fort Yates. The program used the snowkite expedition to focus on the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy while also addressing climate change.
"We came with a very positive message - that North Dakotans can be proud of the wind. We are the number one state in wind energy potential with enough to light up 32% of America. We can create jobs and investment while being the hero in the challenge to avert catastrophic climate change. We are on the verge of a major paradigm shift," remarked Jason Schaefer, the expedition's Education and Environmental Coordinator.
"While North Dakota is an ideal place for snowkiting, few North Dakotans have encountered the rapidly growing sport," noted Eric Byers, events co-ordinator. "By exposing so many people to snowkiting, the expedition accomplished a major goal: We created a groundswell of interest in the state, people were really into it. Somewhere in North Dakota lies the Aspen of snowkiting."
Expedition athletes, Sam Salwei and Jason Magness ended their journey just outside of Garrison on January 12th. The duo got a taste of true North Dakota cold on their last day of kiting as they emerged from their tent into temperatures of -8F and -35F wind chill. Although they were three days behind schedule and the extreme cold made the expedition more dangerous, the decision to stop was based on another safety issue.
"We reached an area of the lake that was bare ice, and were informed by locals that the whole area had been open water the day before." explained Sam. The lack of snow and balmy temperatures has members of the expedition thinking a great deal about climate change.
"While climate change is not entirely responsible for our warmer weather, we cannot help but note that extreme weather events are increasing as well as global temperatures. As we were starting the expedition, news came of a giant ice sheet breaking free in the Canadian Arctic," noted Schaefer.
According to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2005 and 2006 were two of the warmest years on record. North Dakota has seen a 4.5 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature over the past century, three times the global average.
Although the weather didn't cooperate, the wind certainly did. The athletes had enough wind to travel every single day of the expedition, with their biggest travel day being 28 miles in just 90 minutes. Their top speed was 35.8 mph. Over the course of the 12 days, they traveled 248 miles.
This expedition would not have been possible without tremendous support from our many sponsors in the outdoor industry, North Dakota Tourism and of course the generous outpouring of support from individuals, local businesses and communities along the way.
"There are not too many states where someone can show up in the middle of the night with a backpack and snowboard and be greeted with a warm meal and a place to sleep," said Salwei. "A welcomed treat when the unrelenting wind flattened our tent."
Photographs and video from the expedition's media team is available at www.2XtM.com. The website will continue to be updated throughout the year. Look for the power point presentation and route maps to be added soon. Salwei and Magness plan to attempt the crossing again in the winter of 2008. They will use the incredible footage and interest generated by this year's expedition to turn the expedition into a full-fledged adventure/environmental documentary showcasing North Dakota and its tremendous potential.
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