Last Updated on September 9, 2023

Skiing is a winter sport that usually happens on snow-covered mountains. But some skiers are not afraid to try new things, even if it means skiing on sand.

This takes the name of sand skiing – a variation of sandboarding that uses skis. As with sandboards, skis can be modified to glide on sand by adding a laminate layer like Formica to their base, and by applying generous amounts of wax before each ride.

People skiing on sand dunes
People skiing on sand dunes.

Early Pioneers of Sand Skiing

Sand skiing has a long history that dates back to the early 20th century. One of the pioneers of this sport was Marie Marvingt, a French athlete, mountaineer, aviator, and journalist. In 1927, she created aluminum skis to land on Saharan sands in Morocco and Algeria. This was a major breakthrough, as it made sand skiing much easier and more efficient.

Marvingt was a pioneering aviator and mountaineer, and she was always looking for new challenges. She was also a skilled skier, and she saw the potential for sand skiing as a new and exciting sport.

Marvingt’s experiments with sand skiing inspired others to try the sport, and it soon began to catch on in other parts of the world. In the United States, sand skiing was first introduced in the 1930s on the sand dunes of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Sand Dune Skiing in the Sahara Desert
Sand Skiing in the Sahara. Photo courtesy of Arndem.

Sand Skiing in the Namib Desert

One of the most famous sand skiing destinations is the Namib Desert in Namibia. This desert has some of the world’s largest dunes, and it’s a great place to go sand skiing.

German-born Henrik May has been at the forefront of sand skiing in Namibia for over two decades. His company, Ski Namibia, offers guided sand skiing experiences.

Henrik May, who has lived in Namibia for over 10 years, made sand skiing more popular in the country by setting a new Guinness World Record for speed while skiing down a dune in 2010.

Sand Skiing in the United States

Sand skiing in the US has a long and storied history. It dates back to at least 1937, when skiers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, began sliding down the dunes on wooden skis. In the decades that followed, sand skiing became popular in other parts of the country, including Prince George, British Columbia, and California.

In Florida, sand skiing was introduced to Polk County in the early 1900s by Norwegian immigrants. Sand Mountain, a large sand dune created near Fort Meade as a byproduct of the phosphate mining industry, quickly became a popular spot for sand skiing.

The International Sand Ski Tournament was held at Sand Mountain in 1951 and 1952, drawing skiers from all over the world.

However, new technology in the 1960s made it possible for the phosphate companies to extract more phosphate from the sand dunes, leading to the leveling of Sand Mountain and the end of the era of sand skiing in Polk County.

One of the most famous sand skiing competitions in the US was the Sandblast, which was held annually in Prince George from 1971 to 2003. The competition attracted thousands of spectators and featured a dual slalom race among the best sand skiers in the world.

In recent years, sand skiing has become increasingly popular in the US. This is due in part to the growing popularity of dry slopes, which are artificial slopes that are made of plastic. Dry slopes offer a year-round opportunity to sand ski, even when there is no snow.

Monte Kaolino sandskiing
Man Sand Skiing in Monte Kaolino, Germany

Sand Skiing Today and Beyond

Today, sand skiing is still a popular sport, and it’s becoming more and more popular. In Europe, where snow can be scarce, dry slopes made of plastics are becoming a popular alternative. These slopes offer a skiing experience without the need for natural snow.

Monte Kaolino in Germany is one of the leading destinations for sand-skiing and the only sport facility dedicated to the sport which is also equipped with a lift. Once a year, the SandSpirit competition is held there, attracting sand-skiers from all over the continent.

In Peru, where sandboarding is extremely popular due to the presence of large steep dunes all over the country, sand skiing is also practiced. Many athlethes who practice regular ski decide to put their skills to the test by switching snow for sand in Huacachina’s popular sand dunes or Cerro Blanco, one of the world’s largest sand dunes.

Sand-skiing in the world’s tallest sand dune (Cerro Blanco, Peru). GoPro.

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