Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Moonlight Sledding

Sledding, for most people, is something you do during the day. Maybe you take your kids sledding for the day. You have several brightly colored sleds, but the size and shape of the sled doesn't matter so much as long as it goes fast. The steering capacity is also not all that important as the hills are fairly short and relatively free of trees. Sledding is comprised of many trips back to the top for the opportunity to whiz back down. The demographic of sledding is usually kids ranging in all ages, some teenagers, and a few intrepid adults who still remember the joys of childhood. Sledding promises a hot cup of cocoa when you get home or maybe stopping at Village Inn for a piece of pie and hot cocoa. I like this kind of sledding. It is fun. It fills an afternoon. It is forgettable

Before you start throwing the rotten tomatoes let me suggest an alternative. Moonlight sledding. This is not sledding for the young child or for the faint of heart. It is exciting, terrifying, fast, technical, Calvin and Hobbesesque, and epic. Once a month when the moon is at its fullest we gather, bundled in our winter gear, with sled in hand. We carpool up to Alta ski resort and discuss the merits of different types of sleds, evaluating the quality of steering, the smoothness, the fastness, and the quotient of awesomeness that each sled has to offer. A sled that is phenomenal on a regular ski hill might be the worst possible one for moonlight sledding. The ideal sled isn't flat, but contoured with small ridges. These sleds are ideal for steering as the slight leaning of your body shifts the course of the sled. Toboggan sleds are alright, but require more effort to steer and are not as fast. Saucers and slick bottomed sleds are amongst the worst. You cannot steer them which makes them the worst possible sleds to have for moonlight sledding.

We arrive at Alta and each person puts on their gloves, pulls on their hat, grabs their sled and we begin the trek to the top of a green run. We start with a jaunty step which soon slows to a plodding step as we start up the first steep hill. Soon the athletes are separated from the rest of us as they breeze up the hill and wait for the rest of us to huff and puff our way up. We stop occasionally to look at the view or admire the stars, sometimes we stand to the side as a snow cat rumbles its way up or down the mountainside. Nearing the top there is one more steep slippery hill and we reach the top. We catch our breath and gaze at the moon, enjoying the crisp winter air and the quiet beauty of the mountain.

The first person climbs on the their sled to begin the mile ride down to the bottom. The slur of the sled on the snow whispers in the air followed by delighted whoops or terrified screeches. We stop at the end of that hill to have some hot cocoa and take several jump pictures to commemorate the event. We start on our way again. Depending on the skill of the individual one can make it to the top of the first big hill on the second run, or you might get stranded and have to walk part of the way. We gather at the last hill and look down. The goal of this hill is to not brake on the way down, make the turn and see if you can sled all the way down to the parking lot.

Once at the bottom, the condition of the snow is evaluated. Each person talks over everyone else expounding on the high level of skill employed and the courage to take on the hill with all of its challenges. Stories of past sledding experiences creep in to combat those being told of the night's adventures. We pose for more pictures grinning widely. Exhaustion begins to take over on the ride back to town. Back down the mountain, we sort out our belongings, tell a couple more stories, yell good nights, and go home. Driving home, I think about how awesome I am going to be next month and the stories I will come away with. I will always enjoy generic sledding, but it will never hold a candle to moonlight sledding.