It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year!
With the kids jingle-belling, and everyone telling you…
It’s butt-sledding season!!
Friends, the temperatures have dropped and the snow has fallen and so on those beloved mountains and hills of mine and yours sits a bed of sweet sweet powder just waiting patiently for cheeks on sleds to swish-swhisshhhhh all the way down.
It’s one of my most favorite winter activities, second to sitting in jammies sipping warm beverages. Yes, the hike up a mountain or hill in the snow is blissfully serene. Yes, the views of snow covered valleys as far as they eye can see are *chef’s kiss*.
But, it’s the trip back down that makes this little excursion that you’re on an adventure.
In a March blog post I covered some helpful tips to ensuring a safe, respectful, and blissful sledding shesh:
- Gather your gear
- Find your trail
- Hit it!
If you spent any amount of time as a child in a cold weather climate you know how to sled down a hill. Your mom bundled you up, drove you to your spot and turned you loose. You careened, arms and legs flailing in attempt to steer, over ice patches, into your younger, lighter and slower sister. Tired from belly laughs and thrills, you then dragged yourself and your sled back up the hill to do it all over again.
Sledding down a mountain is nothing like this so please refer to my previous post. And then come back for this addendum to that post, a little tale of how I almost died sledding down the most epic run on planet Earth plus a few disclaimers so that you can be fully educated when you make the same bad choices.
Let’s talk about Marble Mountain.
On Valentine’s Day of 2021, Mark and I chose to hike to the top of the mountain we were married on in 2019, Whiteface Mountain. Although home to a weather observation tower and a road that brings visitors to the top in a more conventional way, it is a breathtaking mountain with views of Lake Placid and beyond.
For Winter Olympics fans, Whiteface was also used in events for the ‘32 and ‘80 games.
To get to Whiteface Mountain the unconventional way many hikers start on a trail that first takes you up and over Marble Mountain, which still bears the cement footings of an old chair lift to now extinct ski runs. As a path cut into the mountain for a purpose, the trail heads straight up, no serpentine for erosion- or quad-sake, straight up. For 3/4 of a mile you climb. And climb and climb. No breaks, no turns. Just up.
Naturally, what goes up must…
Careen down with wild abandon.
After a long and wind-blown trek to our spot-of-love, and after huddling in a tiny snow filled shack to warm up on hot soup from our thermoses, a little leg break was much needed.
A little time to sit and let the world pass us by, to let the distance to the car draw near as we enjoyed a peaceful meander through the woods.
But that’s not how it happened.
It’s a steep trail from the bottom to the top. A few sections off Whiteface might have been considered “peaceful” and “meandering,” but we were mostly sledding for our lives until we reached the top of Marble Mountain. From there it was straight and fast with nothing but the end of the trail to slow us down.
Ladies first, obviously…so that Mark could watch and record.
To be honest, I was nervous. I had absolutely no protection against the things that could go wrong; mainly, against the the trees and the concrete footings that would most definitely mangle my body.
But the show must go on, and I was cold and wet and wanted desperately to be back at the car.
I sat on my sled, grabbed its handle and let gravity take over.
With zero resistance from twists and turns and loose snow gravity had its way with me. I slid and I slid FAST down that mountain, making it about halfway before I realized I was going at least 100mph*.
*I was not, in fact, going 100mph. It was 110mph. J/k, it was probably just 25mph but boy does that feel fast when you’re careening with wild abandon.
At this realization I bailed. I panicked and I bailed because I knew I was going way too fast to survive hitting an object in my way. I picked a nice open spot, free of immovable death traps and threw myself ass over teakettle into a full blown tumble.
I tumbled on the hard-packed trail and then I tumbled into the soft wet snow bank. I covered a lot of distance in my tumble and had the snow caked everything to prove it. Snow was in my boots, in my hat, in my pockets, in my mouth. But I was alive. And I was hysterical with glee. Adrenaline covers up a lot rational fears. Like, should I really attempt to continue to sled down the rest of this hill that I was once afraid of dying on YES I SHOULD THANKS FOR ASKING.
And so I did, with less fear and less bailing; making it to the bottom where I was greeted by a dog.
Of course, Mark watched, recorded and learned from my bail, and so he gave himself a smoother, less snow-caked ride down. He also greeted the dog before we limped the last mile to the car.
I shouldn’t need to tell you at this point that butt-sledding down mountains is extremely dangerous. But I will anyway.
If you are hiking in the winter, you will most definitely have micro-spikes (for the icy spots) and snowshoes (required in some areas but also generally a good idea). These items are spikey and can easily get caught on rocks, branches and snow, sending you ass over teakettle toward things that can impale you or worse.
Worse being falling off a cliff. Even the baby hills can have big drop offs with mystery dangers at the bottom.
And this leads to danger for the rescuers. Rangers aren’t always able to be air lifted and dropped on the scene of your misadventure; they hike the same hike, in the same conditions and risk the same dangers.
So keep that in mind when you’re placing your buns on sled.
Make good choices.
BONUS: I really almost died on Giant Mountain.
This is another steep climb that wears on the legs but offers great sledding on the way down; however the conditions for swooshing at the top are vastly different than those toward the bottom. The beautiful powder turns to pure ice and that is where our story begins.
Picture this: Stacie, out of her weary mind, cocky from successful runs at the top of the mountain, steps up to her sled and takes off on a section of the trail that is icy and curvy, full of boulders and downed tree limbs.
Mark does not. He is still in possession of the sense God gave him.
Stacie careens. Out of control.
Up and over the trail and down a creek embankment.
Rolling and rolling down.
My trip down Marble Mountain was dangerous, but I would do it again because I still felt like I had control.
My trip down the bottom of Giant Mountain was dumb in addition to dangerous. I had no control on the ice and it was pure luck that I wasn’t seriously injured. I learned a lesson that day so you don’t have to. Have fun but be safe, friends!