On the hill: Sure beats walkin’
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – I got one of those little sleds last Christmas – the kind that’s just big enough to plant one’s butt on, with a handle on either side to steer with, or hang on for dear life. This week, I finally got a chance to use it.
A friend and I hiked up Buttermilk on Monday afternoon, sleds strapped to our packs, in what turned out to be quite the snowstorm. It was dumping up there for a while, and fresh snow piled up quickly. Closing in on the summit – easily high enough to flirt with death during our inaugural run – we did an about-face and prepared to meet our fate.
I couldn’t forget my experience of a couple of years ago, when I and a couple of companions decided to slide down that first big jump at the base of Buttermilk on lunch trays from Bumps. We all crashed, but avoided serious carnage. To this day, I’m not sure how.
I secretly hoped my sled wouldn’t go anywhere near that fast.
Actually, there was so much snow, it was difficult to get it going at all. Snow piled up in front of the sled and then into my lap. Like an overwhelmed snowplow, the sled and I would grind to a halt on the gentler pitches, where the snow load trumped gravity. Then I’d get up and walk to the next promising stretch of downhill.
I couldn’t help but think, though, that on a groomed ribbon of corduroy, the sled would make for a killer ride – possibly literally.
One is supposed to hit the brakes by leaning back and grinding the back edge of the plastic seat into the snow, but I quickly realized there’s no stopping on a dime with that technique. Better to just fall off.
Leaning from side to side is supposed to steer the thing. At first, I found it about as responsive as a cruise ship, but when I gathered some momentum, trying to lean to either side meant veering back and forth like a drunk.
By the time we reached the bottom, I was giddy with speed and catching air like a pro. I hadn’t worn ski pants, though, and was soaked to the skin.
Still, it was a lot faster than walking down and as much fun as skiing.
It’s too bad Buttermilk opens on Saturday. Now, I’m going to have to find a new place to sled.
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