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Sand skiing

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 0 voices, and was last updated by  kwikgren 5 years, 4 months ago.

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    Another thread about rock skis got me thinking again about sand skiing, especially since we have an abundance of sand beaches and dunes here on the southeast shores of Lake Michigan.

    I understand that glide is hard to achieve, dependent on the sand you have. I think Bill Koch used to evaluate sand samples for people, giving his opinion on whether or not it may be good.

    While Bill and Sten Fjeldheim advocated skiing at the waterline on the wet sand, there was a U-tube video last year of people sand skiing on dry dunes in Brazil, with beautiful kick and glide. (The skier was beautiful, too.)

    I have looked at sandboards, or snowboards made for dunes. Rather than P-tex, the bottoms are made of something like smooth hard Formica laminate. They then rub on a special cake of wax before each run. It is said that P-tex is too soft to allow good glide on sand.

    I have thought of trying to laminate some old skis with Formica, but grinding off the P-tex first seems daunting.

    Anybody with experience sand skiing out there care to enlighten me?





    The weather this week is looking good for sand skiing!

    I first tried sand skiing about 20 years ago after reading an article by Bill Koch about skiing on various non-snow surfaces. I initially tried wet grass, leaves, pine needles, and various snowless surfaces with mixed results. One spring at Blueberry Ridge, I skied across lots of bare spots to connect the areas of snow cover and found the sand to ski fairly well. So I gave snowless skiing a try, and have been doing it on occasion ever since. Wet surfaces work the best, so when the weather is wet and miserable it can be a workout alternative to get pumped up about.

    My sand skiing resume includes: numerous Lake Superior beaches (including McLain State Park, Presque Isle, Bete Grise, and the stamp sands of North Portage Entry and Traverse Bay to Gay), several sand and gravel pits (both large and small), 20km lap of Blueberry Ridge ski trail (Marquette, MI), 15km lap of Sand Dunes ski trail (St. Ignace, MI), and a first (and only as far as I know) snowless descent of Whealkate Bluff (South Range, MI) on a combination of mud, grass, roots, cobbles, stones, and gravel which totally destroyed a pair of old Madshus skis but left me unscathed albeit terrified.

    The best sand that I’ve found for skiing is medium to coarse grained sand with rounded sand grains. Wet sand (but not totally saturated as to produce suction) glides the best and temperatures just above freezing (but not frozen sand) seems to be the very fastest. It is especially important that the sand be wet enough to be firm underneath as dry sand is excruciatingly slow and very abrasive on the ski bases wearing them out much faster. Soft, deep, dry sand with a dusting of moisture on top is not pleasant for skiing either.

    I use old racing skis turned rock skis that finally have turned into sand skis until they break. Light racing skis are the most fun for climbing, and “naked” black bases are the fastest and usually last about 20 to 30 hours before they wear so thin they break or get too slow to use any more. WD-40 or spray silicone will speed the skis up initially, but not really worth the bother or mess involved. Old classic boots and bindings work the best. Skate and combi boots can be used, but they will delaminate quickly from the stresses of striding and bounding.

    I enjoy sand skiing the steep sand pits the most, so that is where I usually go. On the uphills and flats, I use the diagonal stride, shuffle, dog trot, bounding, and herringbone techniques or various combinations depending on the steepness and how I feel. On gradual downhills , I will diagonal stride, double pole, or (very rarely) skate. On the steep downhills, I will schuss using a full tuck or standup run depending on the speed I need (or want), and I will also make parallel turns (carved and/or skidded) or short swing (usually skidded) turns if the sand if really steep and slick. As a bonus, I will try to carve nice patterns and figure 8’s on the side of the sand pit. The only real hassle are the ATV and motocross riders who also enjoy these pits and will create nasty ruts and destroy my beautiful patterns. Bastages! So good timing and a little luck helps.

    Have fun.

    Ken Wikgren



    Thanks, Ken. I’ll give it a try when I decide which skis I can sacrifice. I may also try to grind off the base and laminate some Formica on the bottoms.





    Let me know if that Formica works out. It sounds interesting.

    A few more tips:

    Once you ski a track in, the skiing improves, especially on climbs and flats.

    When bombing steep hills, it takes a little practice to handle the compression at the bottom if the slope levels off abruptly. The rate of decceleration is more extreme on sand than on snow. It took me a few mouthfulls of wet sand to get this dialed. You need to ease your weight back on the tails of the skis a little bit. The correct feeling at the finish is like landing a jump or getting up on water skis. Sometimes a quick pole plant can bail you out, but this can be risky for the shoulder.

    I currently use old Excel Avanti poles with relatively large baskets. I started out years ago with Swix Alulites which was nice because I was sloppy on the extreme downhills and bent them in half a few times.


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