Wednesday, January 9, 2008


When I was a kid, I lived in a part of the country that received regular snowfall during the winter. Everybody had a sled, and they were all pretty much the same Flexible Flyer design: wooden deck, narrow steel runners, and a steering yoke. They were sturdy and heavy, but they wouldn’t work in all snow conditions. But the worst part was dragging that monster back up the hill for your next run.


We became experts at looking out the window and making the calculation to determine whether to get the sled out of the garage. Because it wasn’t worth the trouble of hauling the sled to the hill and dragging it back up if you weren’t going to get a thrilling ride. Thank goodness, sledding was a kids-only activity, because our parents would have been horrified at some of the things we did to achieve that thrill. The primary reason that adults didn’t participate is that it’s hard work climbing that hill after a run. Kids can go for two or three dozen rides. Adults are lucky to make a dozen.

Sled manufacturing took an interesting turn back in the 60’s, when cheap plastic sleds became available. They were durable and lightweight, which meant you could get more runs in a given time frame. But they had no steering to speak of, which limited the places you could use them.

On our recent visit to Maine, I discovered that the sledding industry has another interesting development up its sleeve: snowmobiles.

In Kingfield, Maine there’s a great sledding hill called Gilmore Hill. It’s wide, long and steep, but it’s not so steep you can’t climb back up. It’s unobstructed by trees, boulders, fences, angry territorial dogs, or anything else that might detract from the experience.


What I found most intriguing is that thanks to snowmobiles, sledding has become a family activity. There were several family groups at the hill, comfortably seated in lawn chairs, noshing on sandwiches and sipping hot cocoa. The kids would fling themselves down the hill on their sleds, and one of the adults would hop on a snowmobile and drag the kids back up the hill. This way, the kids could sled all day without wearing themselves out.


One guy even brought some kind of Arctic Cat with tank treads, capable of hauling a dozen sledders at a time.


We weren’t so lucky. Since we didn’t know anyone with a snowmobile, we had to come back up the hill the old fashioned way. Here are the ladies smiling and jovial as we began our sledding adventure:


Here they are, climbing back up that hill after a ride:


And here they are after a few trips:


So the sledding equation has changed for kids with families that own a snowmobile, but it hasn’t changed at all for me. I showed up in ski overalls, a puffy ski jacket, gloves, boots and thick undergarments. After a few trips up that hill, I felt as though a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of Bermuda shorts would have been more appropriate.



Kimberly said...

Maybe a snowmobile rental might be in order on your next trip!

bruce .. said...

.....once is not what you know...but who you know....better to know someone who has a snowmobile, i suppose!!

just remember....

Snowman is an island....or something like that...