Extreme Sledding

**Warning, controversy alert.

We are going to cover a topic that on mountain forums is hotly debated.

And no, for anyone with a single minute of winter hiking experience, I am not talking about the “P” word.

Me: looks around nervously.

Absolutely no one:

Post-holing, I mean I’m not talking about post-holing. For now at least. That’s an argument that deserves a good amount of rest before tackling.

Vague much?

Today we cover EXTREME SLEDDING! Also known as hiking up a mountain and instead of trudging down, weary and cold, sliding down…on your butt!

WOOSH! WOOSH!!

Start ’em young!

For me, this is the number one reason to hike in the winter.

Maybe tied for first. The views are spec-tac-u-lar.

The quietness and serenity: also grand.

So one of the TOP THREE reasons to hike: sledding.

The controversy comes in when you find a group of purists who believe you walk up a mountain and then walk down, as nature intends for you to travel. You leave the trail in pristine condition, and anything other than a snowshoe track is an affront to the mountain and to your fellow man.

Please. People who are more knowledgeable: educate me. Because after years of sliding on my backside down trails of all conditions, after climbing up trails after someone has previously slid down, I cannot find a way that this practice is a no-no.

In light of no contradictory information, let’s talk about BUTT-SLEDDING!

I always end up carrying the baboon-butt-sleds up; small price to pay.

STEP ONE

Get yourself a real sled. You are not going to be able to fashion something small and sturdy enough on your own with everyday household items.

Like dollar store plastic placemats and twine.

Like cardboard and duct tape.

Like grocery bags.

Like your plain ’ol snow-panted butt.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

THIS (pictured above) is the sled that we use. Inexpensive and sturdy. Came quick and the whole family has gotten many fast and furious miles of enjoyment out of them.

STEP TWO

Find your climb.

In THIS POST I directed you to our favorite hiking implement, the AllTrails GPS hiking app. In addition to keeping you from wandering blind and lost through the wilderness and the inevitable death by hypothermia, AllTrails also tells you the grade of your hike! A 20% grade is great for meandering up to the top. A 20% grade is not going to be steep enough to make a grand descent.

We’ve found that sweet spot around 35%.

Of course that depends on the condition of the trail and weather. Is it a warm, above freezing day? Great! But the snow is going to be mushy and bunch up under your sled. Look for trails with a steeper grade. Is it cold? Cloudy? Icy? Hang on to your butts because you are in for a teeth-rattling ride at any grade.

STEP THREE

Go. Hike. That. Mountain!

Scout out the sweet spots for sliding on your way up. Take note of any rocks, downed trees or other impalement hazards.

For the 40ish-and-over club, mentally prepare yourself for the eventual bruising and soreness to come because you are not made for this. I spent the winter of 2020 with bruises on my thighs the size of my face from bouncing off boulders and trees AND YET: totally worth it.

TIPS

Let’s talk safety.

First, you’re hiking a mountain in the winter, remember, so plan accordingly:

  • Warm clothes, socks and mittens
  • Insulated boots
  • Spikes and snowshoes
  • Water (remember, DLIFS: don’t let it freeze, stupid)
  • AllTrails App

And second, on your way down:

DO look ahead at the trail you’re planning to sled down. Are you near a cliff? Maybe DON’T sled there.

DO watch for hikers on their way up. DON’T run them over, plz.

DO use your spikes as breaks.

DO shriek with wild abandon.

DO freakin’ enjoy yourself, you wild and crazy kid.

Vacay in the ADKs

When they go low, we go high…in altitude!

While most kids head down south to warmer weather and sandy beaches for their mid-winter school break, for the past two years we’ve headed north with the 12-year-old to drag her up and down mountains in near zero temps.

Child abuse?

We prefer to call it ”character building.”

She loves it.

Golden hour on a picture-perfect day 😍

On deck for this year’s break were just two mountains, one super easy warm up, the other a bit of a ball-buster. (Down from two ball-busters because someone wanted to have a life and, like, go home early to make it to a sleep over birthday party, or whatever.)

(And with that I’m done saying ”balls” because I know it’s making my mom uncomfortable.)

The first day of our mini-break provided clear blue skies, views for miles and smiles, lots and lots of smiles. We have been climbing the firetowers in the Adirondack Park lately, and this one was short and sweet. A quick two miles, hard packed snow and only 200 feet of elevation gain.

A quick walk up to this lil’ guy

We didn’t even earn the mac ’n cheese skillets we devoured back at our hotel later on.

The second day brought a winter storm. One that dumped half a foot of snow before we even got to the mountain, and another half a foot while we were out trudging to the top. The kind of storm that weather guys and gals recommend you stay inside for.

It was miserable.

All ”smiles” on day two

Mark and I were miserable, and the poor kid was miserable.

The climb was hard on its own. Elevation gain from the very first step. The driving snow that filled in our tracks with every step and soaked into our clothes only made the hard stuff harder.

Snowshoes, a winter must-have for this very reason!

Every ten yards we stopped to breathe, and every hundred yards we stopped to remind the kid that we can turn around if she doesn’t think she can make it.

She made it.

This picture spells r-e-l-i-e-f.

Of course she did. Girlfriend is tough as nails. Despite all that pre-teen angst, she pushed through with strength and determination she might not have known was even there. But she knows now. And I’m so excited to see what she does with it.

(The pizza and ice cream promised at the finish was probably a bit of a motivator too, but let’s say it was a solid 90% strength and determination that got her there.)

Snowy tower