Sledding is a go right now. Photograph by Tira Howard.
WHOOSHING DOWN A SANDY HILL while holding on for dear life (we’re not screaming, you’re screaming) is a sure way to prove you’re a White Sands pro. But it takes some practice. The gypsum dunes might look like snow, but they don’t act like it.
White Sands National Park ranger Brenna Rodriguez holds the intel for going fast, finding the best spots, and doing it all safely. (While she loves the sledding, she admits that her favorite activity is to lie flat at the top of a dune and roll down sideways.)
Wax your sled. Plastic saucer sleds, which can be purchased at the park’s gift shop (when open), provide the best option. Waxing the bottom “decreases friction on the underside of your sled, so it can glide smoothly,” she says.
Wax yourself with SPF 50. “The elevation, the reflection of sun off the sand, and the lack of any shade means that skin gets sunburned even faster and more severely than usual,” she says. And don’t forget sunglasses. “The gypsum sand can be as bright white as fresh snow and can make you go snowblind without eye protection.”
Go deep. To find the best sledding area, walk a few dunes away from the parking area, where the surface hasn’t been as disturbed and there’s no danger of sliding onto the road. “If you want the longest and fastest sledding experience, the largest dunes are the most fun,” she says. Take note: The base of the dunes can be hard, so look for a gentle runoff for a softer landing.