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Deutschlandradio Kultur, author: Alexa Hennings, Beitrag vom 01.01.2012
Segeln über den Schnee, Vor 50 Jahren erfunden, erst heute "in":
das Snow-Kiten

Epilogue 01/01/2012
From sailing on the snow
Invented 50 years ago, "hip" only today - snow kiting
Author: Alexa Hennings


Audio input (in German)....





Atmo Video 1987, Kuhn 0.30
... Speaks French ...

Then author
A video from 1987. A snowy mountain. On top of it, a man about to start with a paraglide. Nothing special for the moment. Until you see: He is standing on a surfboard. With a fin, a kind of small keel from a sailboat. A surfboard in the snow!

Quote Laubenthal 0.05
I had tears in my eyes, when I saw that. This is madness.

Matthias Laubenthal. Airbus captain.

Atmo movie 0.59
..shouting, laughter ... then music ..

Then author
The man in the movie starts running, jumps on the surfboard, the sail above him goes high. He surfs on the glacier to the mountain edge and floats into the air with the board. Accompanied by sounds of Mussorgsky. Pictures at an Exhibition.

Quote Strasilla/Kuhn 0.04
There are so many movies, but this one is out of this world.

Dieter Strasilla. Kite pioneer.

Quote Strasilla/Kuhn 0.12

Although it is already more than 20 years old! - Kuhn: And although his French is awful - laughs - and sings so badly in the lift!

Andrea Kuhn, kite pioneer. Protagonist of the video.

Atmo video, Kuhn sings 0.20

Then author
His singing isn’t so bad. In Italian. That sounds almost like Rhaeto-romanic,

Kuhn's native language. He speaks seven languages.

Quote Laubenthal/Strasilla 0.13

It is an exciting film. / Strasilla: Suddenly on the glacier – what is the fin doing on the glacier and on the ice? / Laubenthal: And how he suddenly falls in a spiral dive out of the sky - laughs - and then somehow continues with the surfboard. Crazy movie.

Atmo film, music, final 0.24

Then author

Andrea Kuhn ends up right side up on the board just before the water surface, after he whirled head first in spirals over the lake, then gently immerses
And continues surfing with the paraglide as a sail.

Quote Laubenthal 0.08
An incredible movie. That is thanks to him. He is a pioneer. He belongs in the air!


Matthias Laubenthal, the German Airbus captain, learnt to fly with a paraglide with Andrea Kuhn. Nowadays you call it kiting – derivative from the English kite. A colleague of his, captain with Swiss Air and also a Kuhn student, once wrote about Kuhn in the journal of the Swiss Hang Glider Association:

Quote Kuhn 0.15
He was supposed to be born as a bird, but something went very wrong - laughs - because I was born a man!

Music - Tangerine Dream: White Eagle / from approximately 1.35 (Please order from the archive)

Then author

Actually, I'm not suited for this research. I admit it: I have fear of heights. In our last vacation I was supposed to accompany my daughter in a climbing park from tree to tree. I gave up in the fifth tree, I panicked. Four meters high! My daughter claims that it was only 2.50 meters. Then when I looked at this video on You Tube, the one with the surfboard and the spiral dive, the whole family cried “madness”!! And you are going to meet this guy? - Yes. - And fly? - Heaven's sake, no!

Music blends in


Atmo Kuhn on a mountain, on the phone with the airfield 1.11
... Types on the phone ... .. zero, eight, five, one ...

Then author
Of course it turns out different.

Atmo Kuhn high
Yeah, well good evening, this is Andrea Kuhn, paragliding teacher. Hi, how are you? ...

Then author
We are located on a mountain near St. Moritz, almost 3000 meters high.

Atmo Kuhn high

Location is ideal, I will fly with a radio reporter from the Giamanna and would like land on the St. Moritz lake, in the middle of the St. Moritz lake - laughs –

Then author
I beg your pardon? Down on the lake with me? But I'm afraid of -

Atmo Kuhn high
It would be a tandem flight and a single flight. And it would great, if I landed quarter to five ... continues talking in Schwyzerdeutsch (Suisse German) ...

Then author
Actually, I just wanted to see how he takes off and then comfortably take the ski lift back down. But when you are together with Andrea Kuhn and Dieter Strasilla, then everything turns out different than you planned. This is the first lesson I learn in these two days in St. Moritz.

Atmo Kuhn high in the end
Thank you ...!


Then author

The dream of flying roots deeply inside the boy named Dieter
Strasilla from Opava. His grandfather was a fan of Lilienthal, the small
Family printing company released a small book in 1940: "From the flight of birds to human flight". His family had to leave their Czech homeland after the war and moved to the Alps, to Berchtesgaden. The boy was three years old. At the age of nine he built model airplanes and designed parachutes for their soft landing. Parachute silk was abuundant after the war. His mother, a master tailor, used it to sew pajamas. When Dieter Strasilla was 17, he went to the USA as an exchange student.

Quote Strasilla 0.51
This fall, exactly 50 years ago, a friend and I went to the White Sands, it’s a gypsum desert in New Mexico. At first, we discovered that the dunes look like glaciers and snow landscape we have. And then we climbed them and used a trunk lid to slide down. And when the wind came, I had the idea to add an umbrella in the front. And then we swished with the wind over the dunes. And then when I came back home I applied it to the glacier and used it to get pulled up on the glaciers.

To overcome gravity is an old dream. It was almost successful: Who uses skiers to go up the mountains instead of going down?

Quote Strasilla 0.20
Once the wind branched off a little, you did not get to where you wanted to go. You ended up somewhere completely different. Yes, and then I just started tinkering to change the aerodynamics of the round shields. This was in 1960-61.

Atmo steps in the snow 0.31

Then author
50 years later in St. Moritz. Dieter Strasilla and I are stomping up a hill, the lake lies below us.

Atmo high at 0.08
Strasilla: It’s nice how the snow crunches, right? ... steps ... .

Then author
Down on the frozen, snow-covered lake colorful umbrellas are dancing on the ice.

Atmo high at 0.17
Can you see the kite, on the side? We have ideal conditions for ice sailing here. Look how he is racing! That’s maybe 100 km/h. Great!

The old idea ignited, and this can be seen here in the Engadine, one of the
largest ski areas in Switzerland. The kiters down on the lake use skis, snowboards or runners. But Dieter Strasilla, the kite pioneer, can only watch.

Atmo on the mountain, Alarm Clock 0.25
Alarm clock rings ...

Atmo high, Kuhn
What do you got there? A toy? - Laughs ...

Not a toy. The alarm clock is a reminder for the tablets. Dieter Strasilla is now 67 years old and has Parkinson's.

Atmo up at 0.14, Strasilla
Where are you going to start? Up there? ...

Atmo steps 0.21
... Footsteps in deep snow ...

Then author

Andrea Kuhn really wants to start on the hill, where it all began. Where the Swiss, who once was a surf instructor, flew for the first time with Strasillas’ screen. Time for nostalgia. We trudge through thigh high snow. It is impossible for Dieter to keep pace. He's waiting. And recalls.

Quote Strasilla 0.21
We also went up the Monterosa glacier with the wind, in three minutes, a we are then booted with the Wind a climber needs an hour. Those were elementary experiences, when it worked it was wonderful.

Atmo steps, Kuhn, reporter 0.56
... trudges, Kuhn: This iss pretty steep, you're not used to it? - Nah ... steps ...

Then author
Andrea is relentless, we continue. The huge backpack with the
chute pushes him even deeper into the snow. Sometimes he carries two, three
chutes on a mountain, then you can barely see him, says his friend.
And  he remembers the first meeting with Andrea, in the early 70s. Until then, he mostly tested the chutes and equipment mostly with his brother, who was a physicist working with NASA in the USA and supplied him with disused parachutes from the aerospace center. His mother used those to tailor the new models. The round chutes developed into rectangle shape, air chambers were added. Because the parachute silk, made of nylon, quickly absorbed snow or water, the inventor replaced it soon with Spinnaker cloth, the lightest, waterproof canvas.

Atmo on the mountain, Andrea spreads the chute 0.48

Then author
Finally we arrived at the launch site. Andrea spreads the chute on the snow. Trees around us, the clearing is only open downwards. No one is supposed to see us. Andrea fears the residents, wealthy citizens who can afford a house on the hillside, overlooking the lake. At the time, when the two kite pioneers were first testing here, the whole area was not yet built.

Atmo high at 0.29
... Now it is like this, that it has 41 square meters. 130 to 220 kg are recommended ...

Quote Strasilla 0.58
These rectangular chutes brought this gain in the glide angle. We didn’t fly then yet. We only went up using the chute, then packed the chute on top of the mountain and then went down on our skis again. And we did this all day. Only later we discovered that the packing was too boring, so the next time we went up, we made ​​a turn against the wind and flew down with the wind! But going up was still essential, flying was not too interesting, because back then kite flyers were much better off. I wanted to go up there and then fly down, so I didn’t have to o all the packing, right?!



An invention driven by laziness. Strasillas paraglider served as a paraglider in the air and as a sail on snow and ice, water, grass and sand. To construct a chute that encompasses all of this in size and material, density, stability and form, and with which you are not only dragged but you can also fly -  that’s masterly! Today you can see them in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Strasillas’ first chute is exhibited there. Built in 1969, 30 years before the big kite-boom. In contrast to the very long lines of today's kite, the original glider is attached directly to the body. This makes it less prone to accidents. Also in 1969, Strasilla, who holds a PhD in chemistry and worked full time as a researcher with a Swiss pharmaceutical company, invented the Skywing-system. This allowed the steering of the chutes with a bar in front of the body. You could now cross in the snow just like sailing on the water. This was the birth of many new sports, that later became trends.

Atmo Start Andrea 1.20
I even started in a handstand, the feet in the control loops. It worked! Landed in a handstand. Okay. Five, four ...

Then author

Andrea wants to start now. One last look up. He starts running.

Atmo high

Set ... go! ... chute flutters ... then running ...

Then author
The screen drags over the snow and does not get up. The wind has turned, and the nearby trees, behind which Andrea hides from the residents, slow him down. No nostalgia on the historic site. The world has changed on the mountainside. Where you once could take off freely, we are now followed with curses: A man gets angry, Andrea has no business here and he is going to call the police. As fast as possible we disappear fast, as fast as it is possible with a big backpack in deep snow. But both are used to difficulties.

Quote Strasilla 0.40
Once I had a very bad experience, I wanted to give up the whole sport. I was sailing up, and the day before I had developed a new release device with our master in the workshop. And I sailed up the Titlis a rather steep north slope. And exactly above the summit I wanted to pull the plug so it collapses. So there I was on the summit, on this summit cornice, and it pulls me over. I'm hammering on the plug – but it didn’t move, did not release.

For the non-mountain people: A cornice, are the masses of snow that are hanging over the summit, blown there by the wind.

Quote Strasilla 0.26
The screen collapsed just over the cornice, and somehow I turned so that I got stuck in the snow the wrong way with my skis just under the cornice. This was a traumatic experience. But I was also very lucky: 2000 meters of rock wall under me and I am hanging there upside down on the skis.

A friend who had sailed up the mountain with him, was able to save him with a rope.

Quote Strasilla 0.29
He threw it down to me, I remember it well, because it was the best moment of my life. This is one of these experiences that tell me, this sport is quite dangerous. Therefore I was always hesitant to pass it along. So when Neureuther came along and was so eager to sail, I made him sign a long document making clear that he is doing it at his own risk. I did not want anything to happen.

For the non-sports people: Christian Neureuther, skier, six times World Cup winner in slalom. Athletes like him became students of Dieter Strasilla and in particular of Andrea Kuhn, who is a paragliding instructor in the Engadine since the 70s. And many pilots were his pupils: men who finally wanted to “really” learn how to fly. Wie Matthias Laubenthal, a German Airbus pilot, who likes to come to Sils Maria for vacations, the hometown of Andrea Kuhn.

Quote Laubenthal 0.24
I think in maybe 1993 we had the first flying lesson together. We flew together for many years, both here and in Italy. Andrea gave lessons in this special way of paragliding with this bar that allows one to take full turns while flying and lets you see the whole panorama. Such a big advantage.

The pilot enthusiastically talks about flying and skiing with the paraglide; from trips across the water, on snow and ice. In Sils is the first of three consecutive lakes that one can cross in this way.

Quote Laubenthal 0.17
So, I had to smile a little when this trend with the kite started – laughs- I know everything already - laughs – I’ve done this years ago -laughs ...


But sometimes it is not funny. Just the other day Dieter Strasilla again heard on the radio, wind surfer Robby Naish invented kiting at the end of the nineties. In Hawai. And when he writes to the editor and asks for evidence, they never get back to him. The verifiable fact according to the Deutsches Museum and the
Patent Office is: In 1969, Strasilla developed the first paraglide, and in the same year the skywing-rod. Patents from 1976 give detailed descriptions of the different possibilities to use the chute in the air, on water and on land. The kite pioneers simply landed too early in the history of the world. And moreover, they are everything, except one thing: business men. They wanted to fly, and not sell. Although: They did try. But neither strength nor money was sufficient. Sometime in the mid-90s the patents expired, Dieter Strasilla had already put too much money in the constant extension and lawyers. Five years later the kite boom happened.

Quote Strasilla 0.41
That was a bit annoying at the beginning. Because it was like this: My wife always wanted to have a little house with the money. And there it became difficult. My wife always got angry with me: You go to all these excursions, the bigsports shows and exhibitions, ISPO for example, and you show them everything! They will copy everything immediately and then they sell it on a large scale. As only the patentee you don’t benefit, because others copy and make so much profit, that they just don’t care if you prosecute them.

Atmo enters the house, Andrea 1.07
... Steps door explains the chute ...

Then author
Andrea invites us to his house on Lake Sils. In the warm, dry basement he has all his gliders: more than 50 models, old and new, for each wind, for one passenger or for tandem flights.

Quote hoch bei 0.19
...Look at the bright neon  ...

Author further
In Hawaii, he once sailed with five girls - lined up like chickens on the
Rod - that was a record, six people on one chute! All over the walls pictures and certificates, a whole closet full of trophies. Andrea Kuhn, now 55 years old, is the vice world champion in paragliding. But it means little to him.

Quote Kuhn, Strasilla 0.21
How is this important? Vice or world champion? It means more to me to have taught world champions or – Strasilla: And Jumbo pilots, you can’t forget them!

And because St. Moritz is a jet-set place, Andrea flew tandem flights with Prince Frederik and Queen Sylvia, and many other celebrities. Although since the big boom there are now several paragliding and kite flying schools: The Royal Highnesses are still entrusted to him. He is doing it since 40 years. With no accident. Up to the highest heights. But the Icarus has limits.

Quote Kuhn, Strasilla 0.33
Here in the Engadine, you have said it yourself, this magnificent blue sky. We have conditions where you can get much higher, but we weren’t allowed because of air lines. I was once at 5000 meters high, on the Corvatsch summit. - Strasilla: You have no oxygen there, what are you doing? If you get dizzy up there? -Kuhn: If, if, if! - Strasilla: Well, there is a limit for me.- Kuhn: Yes, that's absolutely clear.

Heaps of photos, many out of Italian and French magazines: Andrea in Championships, Andrea on rides that are more likely stunts, in acrobatic twists in the air and in experiments to ride the wind with the weirdest vehicles.  A small, wiry guy who apparently can make everything glide. He points to his windowsill, on which a thick, compact wooden board lies.

Quote Kuhn 0.23
Look, this is a monkey wood board. That was once the counter in my surf shop. And even this I would have made glide thanks to our chutes and a fin! Not me, but the forces of nature, the wind!



David against Goliath, that’s also part of the game. At times with no computers and not even a reasonable calculator, Dieter Strasilla fiddled about the newest chute variations - as a hobby and with the slide ruler – that were then tailored by his mother, and tested by Andrea, the natural talent. Like this he existed between the parachute industry.  

Atmo at the ski lift 1.36

The next day at the ski lift over St. Moritz. Flying weather. The sky is so unreal deep blue up here. As if you look at it from an airplane. We are waiting for Andrea, who wants to sail down from the mountain peak and meet us at half the height of the mountain. Dieter rummages in his rucksack. He is looking for his Parkinson tablets. He finds the alarm clock that reminds him, not the tablets.

Atmo rummage, already under it, Strasilla, reporter 1.00
... high at 0.14
... What will happen? - Nothing. I get more nervous, and then the trembling starts. Shit, how can this happen? That's impossible! Annoying! ... fumbles more...

Then author
Five years ago the trembling began. Parkinson. When Dieter Strasilla heard the diagnosis, he thought: Now everything is over. That's how it was for a while, pills did nothing, he trembled so much that he could not even drive a car or ride a bicycle, let alone fly. Then an operation on the brain. The shaking is almost gone, the tablets help again. But the legs fail often. Motivation for new inventions.

Quote Strasilla 0.47
I want to create a jig with a rubber rope. I am not sure about how I will do it; I need to fiddle around a little. And that's what I am working right now. So in the future, if it gets worse and starting on my own gets harder, I can still be independent from others and take off. - Ah, there's Andrea, up there! Now he is finally here! Shouts: Hey, Andrea - laughs ... Finally he comes. Yes, great! What is he doing now? Now he takes three curves, and then lands probably her and then continues with you. It is nice that he continues flying with you. ... Hoi, Andrea! ...

Then author
Continue flying from half-height of the mountain? No way. Andrea chases us to the next lift. Here are only allowed skiers, and so we get skis from Andrea - but we have no boots! So Andrea rummages through backpacks and gets straps and twines and straps our mountain boots to the skis. Now it is not just that I am afraid of heights, but I also have never had downhill skis under my feet! I only feel comfortable  and safe on my cross-country skis. Oh come on, says Andrea, you just have to the same as if you are ice-skating! With great patience he threads and ties my shoes.

Atmo Andrea tightens shoes 0.19

... So, just tap there a little, it will all come together in a bit "! ...

Then author
Does not work? Not for Andrea. In this snow you need skis to start, he says. In the end, we cannot start in the middle of the slope but a little off the side. And there is deep snow.

Atmo potters about, sings to himself 0.27

... And everything, everything will be fine again ...

Then author
But Dieter Strasilla does not want to listen to his old friend, he distrusts the various straps on his feet. So he starts without skis. And without his Skywing-rod. It is in the hotel.

Atmo start Strasilla, Kuhn calls 1,20
... Run, run, run! RUN! Shit ...... then continues in Italian ...

Then author
There is no use in calling. Dieter sinks in to the deep snow with every step he takes, trying to start running. Ten meters below us, he gets stuck in the snow. Quickly there is a guy, who paraglides in his home, the Bernese country, helping him out of his misery. Andrea, meanwhile, is preparing for our start, time is pressing, permission to land on the St. Moritz lake is only valid until four forty-five,  then a private jet claims the airspace. I get into a belt, Andrea attaches it tightly. I am now like a kangaroo in its mother's pouch.

Atmo Gurte anlegen, Kuhn, Reporterin 1.19
... Aha, this is the right one. This one goes to the waist belt. Now you have to diagonally here - which therefore can not be unlocked, it’s impossible. You can do a lifetime, if you want to squirm! Voila! ...

Then author
Where has my fear of heights gone? My reliable companion through the last years, that even bugged me on the ferris wheel? Next to Andrea the fear has vanished completely. Is it the talking that he accompanies all his doings with or the thought that this man has landed queens and princes gently down and would even make a counter fly? Let’s go.

Atmo Start Kuhn, author 1.24

... Head forward ...!

Then author
Andrea gives us a nudge. We slide on the skis a few meters down the steep slope. A scary moment: A few rocks without snow before us! After just nine seconds we are in the air.

Atmo high at 0.14
... Huh ...

Then author
Thousand feet below us lies lake Saint Moritz. We float. I feel like a feather that trundles slowly to earth. That the wind blows up gently, let it draw circles, and lets it drift. Almost  weightlessly over the world.

Atmo high at 0.32
...Nice! And if I should let you steer - No !! - No? Laughing ... Wonderful. See, there is no snow. I often follow the light and can remain in the height. We can land there, where the area of ice is. -Dear God. -This is not so far ...

Then author
Surely the impact will be hard and the skis will get tangled. But also this is different. The landing on the lake is as smooth as if a bird jumps over the meadow.


Then author


The colorful chutes in the sky, on the snow, on the ice and on the water.
When I see them now, I will always remember the two kite pioneers: the prudent inventor who was also daring and the daring, who can be very prudent. I will think of their equanimity, towards the money. Of their joy, to have brought an idea to the world - even if it has not even earned them a small house. But the idea is there.


More music

Then quote Strasilla 0.40

That's incredible. Sometimes, I cannot even believe that an idea suddenly – well, not suddenly, it took 50 years, incredibly long. But now so many people are affected by it. Really fond sometimes, a bit crazy about it, right? So many people want to fly, it has always been the dream of mankind. Since Dadalus and Icarus. Only, he didn’t have the right glue that we have today. That was bad luck, right?

Atmo video, Andrea sings 0.37

Then author
In Europe there are now 302 clubs for paragliding. The kite surfer community increased globally to 160,000. An idea grew wings.

Atmo Andrea high



Abmod. Music on Tangerine Dream
Music: Tangerine Dream, White Eagle, from the CD "Mystic Spirits" LC 06350, (Comp. Froese, Schmoelling, Franke), Virgin Music