Some people are afraid of bears. Some people are afraid of spiders (especially Australians; they have crazy spiders and the fear is legitimate). To me, there is nothing more terrifying than runner sleds. Thin boards, mounted to two parallel snow swords, made to get you going so fast that once, when I was much younger, we thought attaching homemade wings to the side of the sled would give us more lift when going off jumps. These arm cast-growing machines are not for the faint of heart or the light of body. Tree dodging, rock jumping, and barrel rolling were essential skills for surviving, long enough to attain adulthood. Fortunately, this crazy contraption and all its colorful cousins, from the toboggan to the tube, can be tamed. The power is yours.
Making a Sledding Run: Or how I learned to stop crashing while sledding
1080 snowboarding might make dodging rocks and grinding fallen trees look pretty sweet. As a kid, trying some of these stunts in real life seemed like a great idea. Unfortunately, my wrist learned the hard way that even fallen trees are very rarely easy to sled down. Now every time I get on a sled, my wrist likes to send a quick reminder up to my stupid brain just in case it forgot. “Yes, you MIGHT be able to make it under that fence”, it says, “but maybe we should try and go around this time.”. Now, when I plan out my sledding run, I generally like it to be a straight line of well-packed snow, avoiding most large hard objects. Besides, a well packed sledding track that avoids anything too solid means all the more glorious speed and distance on every run!
Learning to Fly is Easier than Learning How to Stop
Some grownups will tell you jumps are dangerous. The key to convincing them otherwise is learning how to fly properly. Douglas Adams once said, “There is an art…or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss…” I never could get the hang of missing, but I did eventually figure out how to throw myself at the ground a little more elegantly.
There are two important things you have to remember when it is jump-building time. The first is the shape of your jump. Anyone can throw a bump in the tracks and get some air. What good is getting air if all you do is eat snow once you’ve launched? You want to be jumping in style. When you build your jump, make sure it is well packed. You also want to make sure the top of the jump isn’t pointing to the moon. You may think this is going to give you more air, but really all it is going to do is make sure you land with the gap between your snow pants and your jacket facing the snow. The key here is to build a ramp that levels off at the top, just like pro skiers and snowboarders. This way, when you launch, your sled is good and flat when it lands. Done properly, you can even build a few jumps in a row, since you won’t have to bail out all of the time.
The second important part of sled jumping is leaning. Nothing is more certain to end in snow going down your pants then two people leaning different ways in mid air! Remember to lean FORWARD once you go off the jump. This will help you level out mid flight and make for a smooth landing. It will also help you build speed for jump number two.
A few more tips for Perfecting the Safety vs. Fun Ratio
Perfecting the lean turn is key to both bailing out and dodging anything unexpected in your path. Learn it. Love it.
Take the path less traveled on your way back up. Never walk up your sledding track. It both ruins the track and increases your probability of becoming sledding road kill.
Safety Note: Roads are for cars. Don’t build your sledding track on or over a road.
Most importantly, be smart. If it seems dangerous, it probably is. The 3.16 seconds of thrill may be fun, but take it from me, 3 months of writing with your other hand is not something I ever want to try again. Once you’ve mastered these basic skills, grab a sled, wait for snow, and enjoy the ride!