Ski bums, do not despair when the weather warms at your travel destination. Though the snow may vanish, your opportunity to partake in downhill skiing and boarding needn’t.
Here’s a Spot Cool Stuff look at three non-snow ski surfaces and where to enjoy them:
Sand Skiing and Sandboarding
After snow, sand is by far the world’s most popular surface for downhill skiing. The sport (such as it is) is enjoyed in countries you likely associate with sand dunes—such as Morocco, Algeria and Qatar. It’s also found in many more places besides those, Chile, France, Japan, the Maldives, Peru, and South Africa among them.
Brazil hosts the Pan-American Sandboarding Challenge (yes, there is such a thing) right on Prainha Beach.
Australia is home to several sand skiing resorts, including at The Stockton Dunes (a two-hour drive north of Sydney), Lucky Bay (in Western Australia) and multiple locations on Kangaroo island.
Four sand skiing and boarding countries Spot Cool Stuff thinks are especially worth mention:
The United States
Sand skiing was invented, or at least sport-ized, in America in the early 1900′s. Today the country boasts more sand skiing spots than any other. Choices range from the Kobuk Sand Dunes in Alaska, to the Ehrenberg Sandbowl in Arizona to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the North Carolina coast. Two destinations of special note:
The Dumont Dunes in the Mojave Desert, California has a massive dune area filled with recreational activities, both sand-related and otherwise. The world’s longest sandboard back flip was performed here—it extended an amazing 455 feet (139 m).
Sand Master outside Florence, Oregon is the world’s first sandboard park. It’s open year round. Guests can rent all the gear they need at the park’s headquarters as well as arrange for sandboarding lessons.
United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah each have multiple locations for sand skiing and boarding. (The other four emirates might as well—please leave a comment below if you happen to know). The competition among tour operators to take you is fierce. Most tours include transportation plus use of gear; some will combine sand skiing/boarding with other activities such as nature walks, desert camping, dune buggy-ing, paragliding and the like. To find a tour consult your hotel, the airport tourist office or a good guidebook.
One opportunity of special note: Dubai is the only place on the planet where you can go sand skiing and snow skiing in the same day. That thanks to the city’s massive indoor snow park. If you really want to mess with your body’s internal temperature settings, top off your multi-surface Dubai ski day with a humid outdoor dinner at The Desert Palm Hotel followed by a drink at the Chillout ice bar.
If ever a world capital of sand sports were to be elected, we’d vote for Swakopmund. The quirky, German-influenced resort town has sandy beaches on the Atlantic and extensive sand dunes open to a variety of sand-full activities. In fact, taking an ATV tour around the Swakopmund dunes is one of the single most fun travel activities Spot Cool Stuff has ever done! Ballooning, horseback riding, hiking and more are also on offer as is, of course, sand skiing. The fastest ever sand skier was clocked here hurling down the dunes at 92 kph (57 mph).
Germany? It’s an unlikely choice for the Sandboarding World Championships, yet that’s where they are held during one week every July at Monte Kaolino in Hirschau. The rest of the summer novice skiing are welcome to try their hand at the sport. Monte Kaolino is an especially good place to sand skiing since a lift brings you, and your gear, up to the top of the hill. There’s also social, beer-laden camp ground on site, making Monte Kaolino a great choice for budget travelers.
In case you are wondering, sand skiing and sandboarding are very much the same as their snow counterparts. If you can do one you can do the other. We’d say the sand version is a little easier—sand isn’t as fast and, generally, offers a more consistent surface than does snow. Falling doesn’t hurt but sand will get inside your clothes and go to places you very much would rather it wouldn’t.
Places with especially fine sand (such as the Gulf States) also offer cross-country sand skiing. For non-skiers, several dunes have sand sledding too.
The scenic Cerro Negro volcano, north of Lake Managua, has an unusual property: One of the volcano’s slopes has a smooth slope of ash. That lead the proprietors of the Bigfoot Hostel, in the nearby town of Leon, to try snowboarding down from the top Cerro Negro. And that lead to the invention of a new sport: ashboarding (or volcano surfing, depending on your moniker of choice).
Today the Bigfoot Hostel is still at the hub of the world’s ashboarding wheel. One needn’t be a guest there to go on one of their volcano surfing excursions, but Spot Cool Stuff suggests it. Reminiscing over beers with your fellow ashboarders in the Bigfoot’s courtyard is part of the experience.
Going volcano surfing requires some stamina (you have to hike up with all your gear), boarding skill (though you can choose to sled down instead) and a touch of insanity. The volcanic ash is warm (go figure) and hurts when you fall on it. Fortunately Big Foot provides productive garb, including a jump suit and goggles.
[via Bigfoot Hostel]
[via Bigfoot Hostel]
When we started this blog Spot Cool Stuff never imagined that we’d write the above sentence (or, if we did, that we’d use “skiing on watermelons” as a euphemism). But then we didn’t know about the biennial Chinchilla Melon Festival in central Queensland and its watermelon skiing competition.
So far as we can determine, watermelon skiing has not spread beyond Chinchilla. We suspect this is partly due to falling while engaging in the pseudo-sport to be both inevitable and painful. If you’re looking for a less rib cracking melon-related competition at the festival, try watermelon eating, watermelon art or enter the Melon Idol singing contest.
More from Spot Cool Stuff:
See, Swim With Penguins (But Not in Antarctica)
Whitepods: The Ski Resort That Disappears
3 Off-The-Beaten-Path European Ski Destinations
The Seabreacher: The Unusual Dolphin-Inspired Watercraft
Reviews of the Best Socks for Travel