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Low Tech Fun in the Snow

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Low Tech Fun in the Snow

Pull out the sled!

Coming on to February, the pattern for winter is generally set. This year, that pattern could be said to be big dumps of snow followed by rain that slowly wears it away. Of course, as that’s only happened three times in the lower parts of the valley so far this winter, pattern might be too ambitious a word.

Nonetheless, February is too soon to be looking to spring, as the chances are good there is more snow in the forecast—heavy falls of snow thanks to the La Nina conditions out in the Pacific. 

Copious inches of fresh powder on the ground are an irresistible lure, pulling people outside to enjoy it in hundreds of different ways, not to mention having to move it from one place to another. And the easiest way to enjoy it, perhaps, is with something (mostly) flat to sit on, and a hill to slide down.

THE GEAR

Did you know you can spend an astounding amount of money on a sled? The nice part about sledding, however, is you don’t have to. Sleds can be made out of a variety of materials, including garbage can lids, scoop shovels, pieces of cardboard (be sure to pull up the front so it doesn’t just dig into the snow), inner tubes, plastic laundry baskets, cookie sheets, kiddie pools, the top to a barbecue (take off the handle of course) or even just a plastic garbage bag wrapped around your bottom. I’ve even heard people talking about sledding on old car hoods (detached from the car), but I don’t actually know many people who have old car hoods just laying around. And this is definitely not a ‘sled ingredient’ you want to borrow from your neighbor—at least, not without asking first.

As Jinx points out in her column this issue (see page 19), if the snow is slick enough, you don’t actually need anything underneath you to find yourself sliding through it. Technically, however, what differentiates sledding from falling is some type of equipment underneath you and, of course, the purposeful nature of it.

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that, on average, emergency rooms will treat almost 21,000 injuries every year from sledding accidents, with children aged 10–14 sustaining 42.5 percent of the injuries. They recommend that “Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be well lubricated.” Yes, their recommendation is to “Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes,” or, presumably, garbage can lids, kiddie pools, shovels and the like. They also recommend that your children should wear a helmet when sledding. (I did not know this when I took David’s grandchildren sledding, as evidenced in this picture. I swear. Apparently, Pat McManus’ mother never got this piece of advice, either.)

THE VENUE

Gear in hand, the next step on your sledding adventure is to find that perfect ski hill, and that can be a little more difficult than you might expect if you don’t already have one in mind. A quick Facebook inquiry asking about the best sledding hills in the area netted practically zero serious responses. The location of a perfect sledding hill is almost as tightly guarded as those of huckleberry patches, morel mushroom growths, and fishing holes.

Even worse, those willing to share the location of a sledding hill have an appalling tendency to favor illegal locations, although that might just reflect my choice of friends on Facebook. Other suggestions are for private land. (For example, Mike Martin says the very best place to sled is at his grandma’s house. I’m sure Judith won’t mind my sharing that with you.) 

My own favorite location to sled (the place where all the sledding photos in this issue were taken, in fact) is the gently sloping hill in front of Hope Elementary School on the Samowen Peninsula—which happens to be private property. This land is not owned by the school district, and you must have permission from the owners to sled there.

Here’s a few pointers for scouting out sledding hills on your own. If you spot one, and you suspect it might be privately owned, ask permission before you sled there. Duh.

While a patch of ground needs to have at least some slope in order to sled on it, the slope doesn’t have to be extreme. Even a mild hill can offer fun sledding opportunities, especially if your children are smaller.

Make sure the spot you choose has a lot of flat, empty area at the bottom, because a speeding sled will continue for quite some distance even when slope is removed from the equation. In particular, you don’t want to sled into roadways, parking lots and/or off of cliffs.

Establish a set area for climbing back up the hill, and don’t sled there. Not only will climbing tear up your sledding roadbed, it hurts to be taken out by a speeding sled on the slog back up.

State parks can offer great sledding opportunities. You can purchase an “Annual Passport” for $25 (plus tax) that allows you day use entry at all of Idaho’s state parks. Round Lake State Park has a 1,000 foot run to the lake!

Other sledding opportunities offered include Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Cherry Hill in Coeur d’Alene (off 15th), and Pine St. Hill in Sandpoint (off West Pine St near Upland, though I’ve also been told it can be quite dangerous due to trees), Sagle Elementary in Sagle and Ruen Rd. 332 in Clark Fork were also offered as great sledding areas.

The sledding experience shown in the YouTube video “Roof Sledding in Sandpoint” is NOT recommended.

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Author info

Trish Gannon Trish Gannon Owner and publisher of the River Journal since 2001, Trish works out of Clark Fork on the east end of Bonner County, a place she calls, simply, "the best place in the world to live." Mother of three, grandmother of two and an inveterate volunteer, Trish is usually tired.

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Homepage, Headlines, winter, winter sports, sledding, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Round Lake State Park, Cherry Hill

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