Sand Skiing at

Great Sand Dunes National Monument

Sept 14, 2002


Great Sand Dunes National Monument is approximately a three hour drive from Colorado Springs. There is a visitor center, paved parking lots and a campground. However, follow a sandy trail requiring four wheel for a couple miles and you can access a much steeper section of sand dunes.

As a pre-season training event, most of the XC ski team drove down there one Friday, camped overnight, and woke up early the next morning to conquer the dunes...

We left the campsite at 8am. This is the point where the pavement ends and the sandy 4x4 trail begins. As important as the people on this trip are the vehicles. That's my Jeep in front. Ben A. is letting the air out of his Subaru to get better traction on the sandy road. Our Coach, Captain Bro, has the Toyota 4Runner.

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We cruise down the sandy trail.

Arriving at the steep section of the dunes, we cross country ski up to the top, something a few of us including me will do 15 more time before the day is over (and it's a really good workout).

Benjamin Burley, as he is known, makes the first descent of anybody.

The dunes drop off steeply to the dry creekbed and scrub forest below. This section of the dunes has a 600 foot vertical drop. The sand was a lot faster earlier in the day because it was wet due to a combination of rain and dew.

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I decide to wear Ben's authentic Pakistani clothes and a t-shirt turban for the first half of the day.

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Our coach, Captain Bro, sticks to telemark style skiing. He claims he's too old and his bones too brittle to bomb straight down the hills like the rest of us. Still, most 30-year-olds wouldn't be doing this.

Capt Bro recovering from a fall. You can see the sharp change from the steep dunes to the dry creekbed below.

Dan tries out the downhill skis. We had one pair of downhill skis and the rest were old cross country "rock skis," which is our term for crappy skis that we won't be using to race or train on.

Being a training trip for a cross country ski team, we find some time in the middle of the day for a two hour expedition toward the middle of the dunes. Here, four of us follow Captain bro, cross country skiing along a dune ridge line. It looks like a scene out of an Everest attempt or trek to the South Pole.

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Brent, Steve, and Mike stop at the top of a ridge on the sand xc ski jaunt.

Steve and Mike tucking on the short downhill. The sand was a lot softer and slower later on during the day.

As the day goes on, some of the guys get lazy and decide to camp out halfway up the sand mountain.

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Mike, Ben Burley, Steve, and Brent stand at the base of the dunes pior to packing up. Mike now dons the Pakistnai gear.

Benjamin Burley rides downhill skis behind the jeep, what becomes known as Jeep skiing.

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Further down the trail with Ben Jeep Skiing. He ends up holding on for nearly two miles.

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We pack up the ski gear and decide to take an alternate path out of the park. It should amount to a three hour 4x4 jaunt over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. On the way here, we had to drive around the range, but this time we'll go over the top. We plan to drive past the snowcapped mountain in earlier pictures.

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As soon as we leave the scrub forest near the dunes, we have to cross a rocky creek.

Ben A. is undetered and follows the jeep through the rocky creek. He is determined to make it over the mountain trail (even though he probably shouldn't). Ben Burley hangs off the back end.

Notice the styling 2x4 roof rack if you haven't before.

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Further down the trail, there is an incident when Capt Bro's roof rack accidently tears a Jeep Wrangler's canopy when they try and pass one another on the the road.

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A little further down the road, Ben discovers that the Mad Subi has a flat tire. We think that the tube got pinched after reducing the pressue from 35 psi to 15 psi for the sand.

Ben uses a downhill ski to jack up the car and put the tiny spare tire on. We could play frisbee with that thing.

A park ranger stops and has nothing better to say than "next time, please use the designated pullouts."

Ben decides not to continue on the Sangre de Cristo trail because we can't be sure what lies ahead. We decide that the other two cars shoudl follow Ben back the way we came through the Park and back to Colorado Springs. Here, the Subi goes back through the creek with the spare tire.

Dan hangs out the side of the subi on the sandy way through Sand Dunes National Monument. They end up driving the Subi on the spare all the way back to Colorado Springs, ingoring the advice that the spare be used for a maximum of 45 miles. Probably in the fine print, the "advice" also says you shouldn't use the spare to drive through creeks and off road trails, as well.

As we leave the area of the dunes, the sun is low in the western sky.

Having read this far, it is an absolute must that you see the video from this very trip.




Last updated August 15, 2004.