August And Everything After: Trip Musings from Kim Hedberg’s Sand Dunes Ski Spectacular

Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming

Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted

We dusted off the Maltese Flamingo looking for inspirado, wondering if a September ski day would still count if there were no snow involved. One borrowed camper, two sets of old skis, and one serendipitous invite from Kim Hedberg, the Den Mother of the Boulder area Backcountry Snow Sports Alliance, and it seems that the stars are aligning for us. The seasons are changing; no matter if the snow is scarce.

The best part of the sand scene in Maltese Flamingo is not the skiing (which is still exemplary), but the soundtrack. Stumpy didn’t realize the time-capsule effect of the New Wave, but it has served us sweetly. Like sugar. Echo and The Bunnymen rock the sound system.

We arrived late on Thursday night, but already a sock hat is warranted. It was only the next day’s epochal sunrise that signaled the dawn of the new season, as the flanks of our Sangre De Cristos were painted red and gold.

The soundsystem rolls on.

I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert

But I can live and breathe and see the sun in winter time

In a big country dreams stay with you like a lover’s voice cross the mountainside… Stay alive…


Kim’s crew descends and we plot the attack. One sandy 4-wheel drive road north leads to the annual pilgrimage spot. Dave and Carol have been skiing here for 12 years. Kim for even longer. And costumes are mandatory. We have dresses, grass skirts, Arabian robes, graduation gowns, and one Luchador mask. There are spandex and nonsense, and a dozen wide smiles.


Skin tracks seem out of place on the dunes, but the esthetic harnesses the bug, and the bug signals joy. This is vertical. We wonder aloud, can sand aspect be affected like snow? I’ve never seen you look like this without a reason…


At day’s end we have determined that skiing the sand in September should count. Not only was skiing accomplished, but we logged more vertical than we would have on the residual snowpack, and probably in better conditions. Top that off with Kim’s Dark And Stormy and the great headlamp caper, and spirits are high in the San Luis Valley.


The return trip guides us to the Geo-thermally heated Sand Dunes Pool to rinse and relax. De-sand ourselves. Somewhere on the mountainside leaves are changing. Taos to the South, Wolf Creek to the West, Monarch to the North, and our eyes are on the summits of the mighty Crestones, where we could all swear that the earliest hint of frost was winking at us in the autumn sun.

In a big country dreams stay with you…



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