If sandboarding is somewhat already established – or at least, widely practiced – as a sport, sand skiing could very well become the next big thing after Swedish olympic freeskiers Jesper Tjäder and Emma Dahlström filmed themselves with a GoPro while skiing down Cerro Blanco, Peru’s tallest sand dune. 

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Man sand skiing
Sand-skiing. Photo courtesy of Martin GH.

What is sand skiing

As the name suggests, sand-skiing is the practice of skiing on sand dunes or deserts. It can be practiced with regular ski gear such as ski poles, or with a cable ski setup while being carried by a vehicle, similar to waterskiing. It is different from sand dune surfing mainly in the type of equipment used – skis instead of sand surfing boards.

Can you ski on sand?

Skiing on sand is totally doable! Like sandboarding and sand sledding, you will likely need to apply sand wax to the bottom of your ski poles in order to reduce friction. You will damage your skis if you use them on dry sand without proper waxing. 

Sand skiing vs snow skiing

There are two different ways you can practice sand skiing: sliding down a dune (sand dune skiing), or cable skiing across the land (desert skiing). The former is virtually the same as sandboarding, except practiced with skis. As long as your equipment is properly waxed, sliding on sand shouldn’t feel too different from sliding on snow – except that you won’t be wearing heavy winter clothes. Desert skiing with a rope will feel more similar to water skiing except that you won’t get wet, but rather covered in sand. Sand kite surfing also often makes use of skis paired with a kite and the power of wind to move you across soft sand.

Is sandskiing dangerous?

There have been many reports of people having sandboarding accidents and even dying, sand skiing poses the same risks. Whenever you go ski on sand dunes, make sure to follow local instructions, wear proper clothing and double check that your travel insurance covers sand skiing. We recommend the insurance from WorldNomads.com, which covers a wide range of activities and extreme sports on sand.

Where can you ski on sand dunes

The aforementioned Huacachina oasis in Peru is easily one of the best spots for sand skiing (and any sand related activity, really). That said, Namibia can possibly be considered the capital of sand skiing, it is there – on the dunes of Swakopmund, that the current Guinness World Record holder for faster sand-skiing got his achievement. Other locations where sand skiing is practiced are Monte Kaolino in Germany – the only sport facility in the world dedicated to sand skiing – and in the Kalahari desert in southern Africa. In the US, the man-made Sand Mountain near Fort Meade in Florida used to be a popular sand skiing spot in the 50s that unfortunately does not exist anymore. Pretty much any other location where sand surfing and sledding are practiced is also suitable for sand skiing, and some people even attempted skiing on active volcanoes.

Sand skiing equipment

Most regular skis aren’t really suitable for sliding down sand dunes, but they can still be used with a few modification or by applying a healthy dose of sand wax before hitting the dune. Henrik May, who entered the Guinness World Record book for fastest skiing on sand in 2010, used a pair of HEAD skis with plenty of applied wax. Keep in mind that sand skiing can ruin your skis, so it’s best to use an old pair you don’t care too much about (or that needs a good sanding). The base of your ski will end up getting smoothed at every ride, wearing off gradually. The best way to slow down this process is to get your hands on a sand ski built with a laminated base that will resist sanding.

Where to buy sand skis

Sand skiing is still a very new and niche activities and you will have a hard time finding sand skis for either rent or sale. You can make your own sand skis by adding a layer of Formica or similar laminate material at the bottom of an old pair of wooden skis (mind that this won’t prevent your skis from wearing out eventually, but it will make sliding much easier on sandy terrains). Sandboard wax still needs to be applied before every ride.


Intrigued? Check out Jesper Tjäder and Emma Dahlström’s awesome adventure skiing down Cerro Blanco:

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