The Oregon Dunes are a large expanse of coastal sand dunes stretching approximately 40 miles north of the Coos river in North Bend, to the Siuslaw river in Florence, OR. They are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in north America and in some places have reached a height of up to 150 meters above sea level!
Living only an hour from Florence (the northern tip of their territory), I decided that I should pay them a visit–with an ol’ pair of skis. Before this little getaway, I had never actually tried sandskiing. I’d seen the occasional online video, but having lived in Oregon for only a few years, I never really made the connection that this was something very easily achieved from my location.
I had this realization while sulking around my house bummed that I had just barely missed the recent South American blizzard that pounded some parts of the Andes with over a hundred inches of snow. Although sandskiing could never compare to that, I figured it might brighten up my day. And it did!
After being told by a lady at a sandboarding shop in Florence that skiing on sand would never work because the bases of skis are made with a material that sand sticks to, I purchased some sandboard wax (which is key to getting skis to slide on sand) and proceeded to prove her completely, utterly wrong. I dry waxed up both my skis, climbed up the steepest dune I could find and gave it a try.
It totally worked! It wasn’t nearly as fast as sliding on snow, but that’s sort of obvious before you even try it. I was stoked. I had succeeded at getting another mid-summer skiing fix which was exactly what I had come for.
I proceeded to venture out into the foggy Egyptian-like landscape in search of larger dunes. It was a great adventure as well and an interesting learning process. I found that although the dunes looked completely dry, it had rained the previous day. It was windy as hell and the sand that had dried covered maybe an inch or two of the wet sand beneath. Skiing on wet sand doesn’t really work, and while turning, your skis often dig in at least up to an inch depending on how compact the sand is. This meant that the windward slope aspects had minimal dry sand above the wet while the leeward slope aspects were being wind loaded with dry sand. For the best sandskiing, I stuck to the leeward slopes.
In addition to learning this, I also learned that the consolidation of the leeward slope sand was much softer than the wind blasted aspects. With relatively skinny skis compared to the modern norm, I ended up sinking into the sand a bit more than I would have liked, which obviously slowed me down. Regardless of this, I still had a BLAST and it was good to learn this for future trips.
The more protected dunes had received less water the day before and were drier, so I returned to my initial practice slope for the last few runs. The areas of this slope where coastal grass had grown on the sand formed small natural features that I was able to play with and add another dimension to sandskiing: sandhucking!
It was way different from a normal takeoff in snow because sometimes sand would collect on the skis, weighing them down and making the lip of the jump feel almost “sticky.” Regardless, it was super fun, and with so much terrain to explore, I will definitely return again. Next time in completely dry conditions hopefully. I highly recommend trying it if possible.
Photo credit to Alena Caputo.