Responsible Recreation Through “Silent Sports”

Jenny Keto
Midnight Sun Adventure Company

Last night the snow fell lightly whispering through the air like a million tiny silver spiders dangling from their threads — a perfect night for cross country skiing! I accepted the night’s invitation and headed to the trail. I let my skis lead the way as the darkness rendered my sight useless. The crisp 9 degree air was freezing the moisture on my eye lashes. What a small price to pay for the revitalizing experience of gliding through the woods at night over freshly fallen snow.

As I think back, I recall that night of cross country skiing with the moonlight peaking through the clouds above. However, I do not recall hearing any noise, nor creating any noise — the beauty of silent sports!

As for all of us, time is often allocated out to the many responsibilities of life, leaving only a limited amount of time for recreation. I truly appreciate the spiritual renewal that comes from recreating outdoors. I also find it peaceful that my recreation is not disturbing anyone else’s experience or having a negative effect on the environment — a common definition of “silent sports”.

Living in Duluth, Minnesota, the opportunities are endless, including running, hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, whitewater rafting, sailing, surfing, kite boarding, rollerblading, birding, biking, climbing, canoeing and sea kayaking. These are only a handful of silent sport activities enjoyed throughout the state of Minnesota in both urban and rural regions.

In recent years, these sports have received more recognition in regards to silent sports specific publications, news coverage and acknowledgment as a target market for the tourism industry. However, the spaces and places available to participate in silent sports are diminishing. New developments everywhere are reducing our urban and rural natural green spaces.

This decrease in space has consequently increased the conflict between recreational user groups. Someone participating in a silent sport requires very little infrastructure and has very little impact on the environment. In contrast, motorized sports tend to utilize a greater amount of infrastructure including wider trails, bridges, erosion control and access routes. Motor sports also create noise and pollution that is both disturbing to the wildlife and to other recreational users. As a result, this limits the number of recreational users who can enjoy the same space at the same time.

In Minnesota, more and more often we find ourselves out for a hike or a paddle only to hear the sound of motors in the background. While we value the silence on the trails and on the water, it is important for us to speak up and speak loudly in order to promote and protect environmentally responsible recreation. It is also important for us to recreate in a way that is respectful to those around us and responsible for the environment.

Read Up

Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Superior Hiking Trail Association, 2001.

Soft Paths, Bruce Hampton and David Cole, 1996.

Act Locally
University of Minnesota Outdoor Program
Duluth, MN
Silent Sports

Our Sponsors