At This Ski Resort, the Slopes Are Covered With Sand Instead of Snow

Stefan Mrozinski jumps from a rail at the Sandboarding World Championship 2007 at Monte Kaolino.
Stefan Mrozinski jumps from a rail at the Sandboarding World Championship 2007 at Monte Kaolino. / Lars Baron/iStock via Getty Images

Skiing usually requires a tolerance for cold and snow, but that isn't the case at Monte Kaolino in Hirschau, Germany. At this ski resort, winter-averse adventurers can experience speeding down a giant slope made of sand.

According to Atlas Obscura, Monte Kaolino is an artificial mountain consisting of 35 million tons of quartz sand. The 360-foot summit attracts sandboarders and skiers during the summer months. After taking a ski lift to the top, guests ride their gear down the slope just as they would on snow.

Monte Kaolino began its life as a massive eyesore. Before it was famous for its sand slope, Hirschau in Bavaria, Germany, was known for producing kaolinite. The mineral is the primary component in porcelain, and it's also used to make toothpaste, paint, and cosmetics, among other things.

When the company Amberger Kaolinwer began mining kaolinite in Hirschau in 1901, they ended up with a lot of quartz sand—a byproduct of separating kaolinite from earth—on their hands. With nowhere else to put the excess material, the company made a pile out of it.

The sand mound continued to grow until it reached mountain-sized proportions in the 1950s. That's when skiers started using the slope to practice the winter sport during the summer. By the late 1950s, Monte Kaolino hosted a ski club and soon became a full-blown tourist attraction.

Today, the resort appeals to novelty-seekers as well as professional athletes. For years, Monte Kaolino was home to the annual Sandboarding World Championships, where competitors reached top speeds of 60 mph. The resort stopped hosting the event in 2007 due to renovation projects, but serious sandboarders are still welcome to practice their moves on the mountain.

In addition to the sand skiing, guests come to Monte Kaolino for many warm-weather activities. They can ride a handbrake coaster down the mound at speeds approaching 25 mph. Beyond the peak, the resort offers golf, a ropes course, and in-line skating. There's even a "dune pool," so skiers can have the unique experience of going for an outdoor swim after hitting the slopes.