By Sarah Sekula, Published on usatoday.com
When you think of Colorado, giant sand dunes don’t immediately come to mind. Unless you’re Raleigh Burt, with Kristi Mountain Sports, that is. The 23-year-old regularly heads to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa, about a 4-hour drive from Denver, to slide down the wind-polished pyramids of sand.
Today he’s letting me tag along.
After grabbing custom-made sandboards ($18 for the day) in Alamosa, we make our way to the park. By 10 a.m. we are gazing up at the tallest dunes in North America. But I feel much more like I’m visiting Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s so odd to see towers of sand smack dab in southern Colorado. Not to mention the fact that they are shadowed by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which top off at about 13,000 feet.
“Do you want a big-kid adventure, or a little-kid adventure?” Burt asks, as his lips curl into a smile.
“Uh, big kid, definitely” I respond.
With that, we cross an icy-cold creek. The water is only up to our ankles, but it’s enough to shock the system. Next challenge: Slogging up the golden-hued terrain, the ultimate stair master challenge. Each step I take, I sink into the sand.
Soon enough, though, we reach the top. I kick off my shoes, strap my feet onto the board and barrel downwards. I repeat this about eight times. By the third try, I’m getting the hang of it.
It has the feel of snowboarding, but it’s more unpredictable. Meaning, you slip and slide every which way and turning is quite a feat. Fortunately, the sand is super cushy, so landing on your bum doesn’t hurt much. The best part is: We don’t see one person out there with us.
“The dunes are so expansive that it’s easy to find a spot to yourself,” Burt explains.
That said, it’s the perfect place to capture a hero shot of yourself shredding the slopes without a soul in sight. Since you have to trek your way up the dunes, how many runs you do depends on your fitness level. But you can easily trek up and down the dunes a few times without being in tip-top shape.
Similarly, there are plenty of brag-worthy trips like this around the world, and you don’t have to be an athlete to participate.
Volcano boarding in Nicaragua
How many people can say that they’ve careened their way down an active volcano? Not many. That’s exactly why it’s so intriguing. Better yet, anyone can do it as long as you are in reasonably good shape. The owner of Bigfoot Hostel organizes volcano-boarding trips in Western Nicaragua and has seen people from all walks of life try it out, from teen backpackers to 60-year-old grandmothers. It goes something like this: hike your way up to the lip of the crater, gaze at the Maribio Volcano chain, strap your feet to a retrofitted snowboard or sit down on a sled and tear down the volcano. Funny thing is, you go slower than you’d think, but the photos with the dust kicking up behind give the illusion of speed.
Walk on water in Florida
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a superhero, here’s your chance. At several waterfront Florida locations (and around the world) you can hop into the water and launch yourself up to 30 feet in the air thanks to a water-propelled jet pack called JetLev. It’s part watercraft and part aircraft, and it sends you flying at speeds up to 30 mph. You can hover just above the surface, dive headfirst into the water or move horizontally while tip-toeing across the water. No experience is necessary.
Dog-sledding in Quebec
Come wintertime, it’s time to mush. It’s one of Canada’s oldest forms of transportation, and one of the most thrilling ways to traverse across the snow. At Nordik Adventures in Bonsecours, a rowdy pack of huskies will greet you. You can choose to sit in the sled while a pro drives or drive it yourself. As the athletic canines sprint through maple trees, it feels like you’re on a roller coaster. An epic excursion, indeed.