How to Sandskate on a Snowskate
How to Ski on Sand
With a fistful of black graphite wax and a whole lotta rubbing, you can convert your snowskate, skis, or snowboard into a rippin’ sweet sandskate, sandskis, or sandboard.
My experiments with riding alpine gear in the sand have led me to the following conclusions:
Black graphite wax works because it repels static and impurities.
Black graphite wax glides well and leaves your bases clean. That’s because sand is made of static and impurities, which graphite wax is specifically designed to repel. It is the key that unlocks the magic of the dunes.
Graphite wax makes soft sand p-tex friendly. Go on and pamper your gear with a gently exfoliating sandy spa treatment. Besides allowing you to ride on sand, it’s worth keeping graphite wax around because it improves the temperature range of your gear in really cold or really hot snow.
Many competition-level sandboard waxes are made with graphite. Because graphite is the key, both black sandboard wax and black ski wax work well on sand. The sandboarding wax is a little better, but it’s fine to just use whichever one you have on hand.
For science’s sake, I ran a controlled experiment and crayoned through a spectrum of waxes. Graphite waxes are the only ones that work well. The others will bog you down, grime you up, and maybe even damage your bases a little. Here they are, ranked from best to worst:
Graphite Sandboarding Wax
Graphite Ski Wax
Multipurpose Soft Ski Wax: Conditioner/Cleaner/ Storage
You might be able to get away with using cold-weather, all-temp, or even warm-weather wax, but that’s only if you carry a scraper for the grime buildup. The ride is slow and heavy, wasting a lot of physical effort to drive them down the dune, so it sucks a lot of the fun out of it.
Multipurpose soft wax makes sandskating nearly impossible. It just kind of smears dirt into your skis. Your gear gets disgusting after one run and immobilized after three or four. It should be avoided, along with skate wax, surf wax, and candle wax – which will not work at all.
If you would not use a household item to wax your p-tex for snow, do not use it to wax your skis for sand. Soap will ruin your bases by drying them out until they turn white. WD-40 will ruin your bases by sucking up dirt until they turn black. Neither glide well, and the chemicals are bad for the environment.
You have to re-wax every 200 feet or so.
Wipe the loose sand off
Scrape off any sandy grime
Rub the puck on the sub ski like a stick of deodorant, until you have coated the entire base.
Use a horsehair brush, cork, or even just a rag to smooth it in.
It may seem like a lot of waxing, but you quickly learn to love it! Be sure to start the day with a decently tuned ski. The night before, I hot waxed with a combo drip of warm weather and graphite.
With proper waxing, sandboarding does extraordinarily little harm to your p-tex bases and metal edges. If anything, it pampers them with a nice little facial.
Choose big dunes with steep pitches.
Just like riding super deep powder, the steepest runs are the sickest. If your choice dune seems intimidatingly big, it’s probably about the right size. You need momentum to get gliding, and little sledding hill sized dunes don’t really do it.
Speed will sustain that nice glide over the surface tension of the sand. Much like waterskiing or wakeboarding, there is a “take-off” period of acceleration.
My advice for choosing terrain is to find the largest dune in the park. The steep drop-ins and heavyweight slashes are the most exhilarating part of sandskating. You go pretty slow on sand, so it’s not that scary.
If you’re really just trying to chill, find a short steep dune that’s shaped like a long quarter pipe. You can cut horizontally across it and surf it like a wave.
Be strategic about hiking up the sand dunes.
When hiking the dunes, there is a “two steps forwards, one step back” feeling. Switchbacks help relieve that. Also, read the dunes for paths that traverse over ridges and saddles.
If you want to trek a distance, start by taking a bearing. It is easy to get lost or disoriented in the dunes. Look at the way that the dunes are shaped and see if you can wind around the areas between their bases instead of going up and over.
It is often easier to scramble up nearby rocks or foliage. Watch out for poisonous snakes. Stay on the path and be careful not to disturb animal nests or fragile plants. Sand dune ecosystems tend to be delicate, so use your best “leave no trace” judgement.
The sand will quickly drown your waxing gear and electronics, so keep your items close and consider using ziplock bags to store your electronics.
Stay out of the way of the motorists.
If the park is open to ATVs and other recreational vehicles, DON’T GET HIT. In my opinion, getting struck by a vehicle is the biggest risk of sandboarding.
The drivers will not be able to see you over the edge of a dune, so try to stay somewhere out in the open. Listen for the sound of the engines and avoid collisions by keeping your guard up. If the area is busy and overrun, ask yourself before going out, “Will I be able to stay out of the way?”
Why hoof it when you can hitchhike? I’ve found that a funny hat or shirt goes a long way with getting the motorists to pick me up. Most people are really nice and enjoying a fun day off, but if you get in a sour encounter with a territorial motorist, do not escalate the argument.
Rubbing black wax on existing gear is cheap and convenient, but there are other methods to sandboarding.
Sandboards, made specifically by sandboard companies, have bindings and look like miniature snowboards. At the time of writing, there does not appear to be any commercially available sand blades.
Another idea, from Episode 3.1 “Attack of The Sand People” at 7:18, @linetravelingcircus glued some formica sheets to their bases. Although I haven’t tried it (yet), if you’re feeling crafty, give the formica a shot. You can find the stuff at a big box hardware store.
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to drop your input or questions into the comments.
Special thanks to @OregonDead, Hovland Snowskates, Ellie’s Chainsaw Art Gallery, and an extra friendly host at Oregon Dunes State Park.
Youtube link for video: