Sledding: The classic way down the mountain

Photograph by Emma Wilson
Photograph by Emma Wilson

As many of us found as we returned to campus from Fall Break, winter is upon us. Students were greeted with a dusting of snow on campus, and our nearby mountains have subsequently received their own storms as well.

The recent snowfall has left students enchanted, dreaming of driving into the mountains in the coming weeks, desperate to clip into their skis and hit the slopes. While such excitement is contagious, there is something that simply has not gotten the attention it deserves: sledding.

As the years have passed, the sled has faded into distant memories of childhood. We would bundle ourselves up and trudge up a hill countless times until we simply needed a hot chocolate break and warm fire. However, nowadays skiing seems to command all of the attention, since we’re all adults now. I’m lucky enough to call the mountains home. So, over Fall Break, I decided to take advantage of the flurries of snow in Steamboat Springs: not to ski, but to sled.

In an attempt to build up hunger for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast, I dragged my two reluctant sisters up Blackmere Trail on Emerald Mountain, each of us decked in our snow gear, armed with colorful sleds.

The trail was packed down with snow, a stark difference from the dirt and gravel reserved for the summer, and bare branches reached across the path. The colorless sky let loose a gentle sprinkling of snow as we hiked, sleds in hand, and I couldn’t have been happier.

The same could not be said for my sister, Caroline, who asked every few minutes if we could turn around. The hike was interrupted on occasion in order to test sled speed and snow quality, but we continued up the trail with the promise of an epic ride down.

Upon arriving at the top, the usual view of Mount Werner and the town of Steamboat sprawled at its base was obscured by the growing snowstorm. However, we weren’t focused on the view. The two-mile hike was finally put to the test to prove whether it had been worth the exertions just to slide down a hill.

We each laid down in our sleds, penguin-style, on our bellies, headfirst with the intention of gathering the most speed. Arms spread out on either side, we propelled ourselves forward and each quickly went face first at varying speeds into the snow that lined the trail. After some trial and error, we each adjusted our steering accordingly and began to pick up speed and confidence.

Though we had just hiked up it, the trail was completely changed once traveling down in such a fashion. Each turn allowed for more speed while also challenging our control over the sled, and more than once almost called for a complete bail to avoid flying off into the bushes.

The snow that had started falling earlier also picked up, obscuring my vision, and I realized goggles would be necessary for next time. Near the end of the two-mile ride, the trail steepened drastically, which we each used to our advantage to finish the ride at top speed.

As I skidded around the final turn and quickly looked to slow down, pushing my hands and boots into the snow, Caroline was not so perceptive. The sudden end of the trail led to Caroline crashing into me in order to stop, leaving us laughing and breathless in the snow as Charlotte flew by, yelling victoriously.

While the coming snowstorms should obviously lead to excitement about hitting the slopes and getting turns in, the sledding that comes with the snow is truly underrated. Once combined with a snow-packed trail, it’s taken to a whole new level worthy of the child within us. Let’s face it: the only acceptable way to get down a mountain other than on skis or snowboards is on a sled.

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