Sledding: A painful pastime

Photo by Matt Williams
Photo by Matt Williams

Sledding, the underrated sport of sitting and sliding in the snow. Maybe not a sport entirely, but definitely a good way to work out and have fun outdoors in the snow.

As a kid, maybe you slid down the hill behind your house on a sled you got for the holidays or on a flattened cardboard box or a garbage pail lid. On a college student budget, even though the cheapest sled Wal-Mart sells is only $13, buying a sled isn’t always an option. In the spirit of savings, we tried out a few sleds and sled alternatives: cardboard, plastic bin lid, frisbee, laundry basket, spoon sled, a saucer-style sled, a traditional sled and a three-ring binder. Our contestants for best sled were helped along by some rub-on ski-wax and icy conditions of Peet’s Hill.

Sledding in itself is not particularly athletic, but tromping up the hill after a wild ride downhill brings your physical condition to light. Be prepared to fall down, a lot. The only thing that makes walking on ice more difficult is carrying an ungainly sled and going uphill. Be careful not to hurt yourself and slide back down the hill entirely.

Sledding is surprisingly fraught with peril. My tailbone still has not forgiven me for the bumpy rides downhill. A few “sleds” and the rumps of all of the Exponent’s sled-testers didn’t survive the trip.

The spoon sled was the first casualty. On the very first slide down, the plastic fractured and cracked, leaving the sled unusable for a second try. Ah, the quality in production we’ve learned to expect from Wally World.

The laundry basket was a great ride down — fun and fast, if a little bumpy. It would’ve been up for the win, except it cracked along the sides during its first try as well. Also, don’t try to fit two people in it at once. Not only is it overly cozy, the laundry basket refused to slide much more than a foot.

Cardboard lasted longer and worked well, until it became too soggy from the snow. Once it got to that point, it tore easily, making it too small to ride comfortably.

The frisbee was very small and difficult to sit on, especially while plunging down the hill.

The plastic lid was large enough, but didn’t slide well, even with ski wax.

The saucer and traditional sleds worked well, which is not surprising — if a sled costs $20 or more, it should work as a sled.

The binder was a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, it slid just fine and was large enough once opened, but the binder rings posed a problem. Not at first, but when the bumps hit, it was was not fun when I landed on a binder ring. I still have a bruised tailbone and the lasting embarrassment of injuring myself while sledding.

Cardboard was the best non-sled sledding option by far. However, if you have the spare cash, buy a real sled — they’re worth it if you enjoy the pastime, and are far easier to ride with two people at once.

Another, perhaps more practical option, is to rent a sled from the Outdoor Rec Center, which are as cheap as $1 per half day and you can put your student fees to good use!

The best part of sledding, aside from exhausting hiking through snow to the perfect launch point and flying off of an ice bump praying for salvation from any deity willing to help, is definitely warming up with some hot cocoa and friends after. And for those over 21, hot cocoa spiked with peppermint schnapps or Ullr (a Norse liquor that is curiously minty) can help dull the pain.

Sledding is fun and, with fresh snow, Peet’s Hill would be an easier ride. Just remember to be careful of the children playing there. Parents do not take too kindly to their kids being mauled by college-age sledders or shouted expletives when you accidentally slide into the fence.