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Sledding 101

It’s 6:30 a.m. on a January morning in 1977 when the alarm clock rings to wake my sister and me for school. I crawl out of bed, look out the window, and notice that it snowed overnight. I can barely see the cars on the street with the thick layer of flakes covering them. I quickly run downstairs, turn on the radio, and listen intently. To my delight, I hear the magic words, “School is closed today.” With confirmation from my mother that school is indeed closed for the day, my morning tiredness turns into pure excitement. Not because school was closed—I loved going to school—but why it was closed: snow! My sister and I couldn’t wait to put on our snowsuits, meet up with our next door neighbor, and head down the street with our sleds. This would be a “downhill” kind of day. While supercharged versions of sledding such as luging and bobsledding qualify as sports, sledding itself falls into the category of pure play. Hours of fun lie ahead when you have a sled and are presented with a thick layer of snow covering big hills, small hills, or hills with lots of bumps. Toboggans, snow tubes, saucers, wooden sleds, plastic sleds, metal sleds, sleds with runners, and steerable sleds all serve one main purpose: to get you from the top of a hill to the bottom in a swift and exciting manner. With a little inspiration, a cafeteria tray smuggled back to the dorm or a sheet of cardboard from the basement can take you sliding at top speed!

Sledding is a timeless and ageless activity. In northern states kids live for sledding in the winter, in southern states kids yearn for a rare snowfall to cover the grass. Growing up near Binghamton, New York, my friends and I kept sledding right through high school. Even in college my dorm held sledding parties. Last winter at the ripe old age of 40—er, 29—I went snow tubing with a friend and her high-school-aged niece and couldn’t have had a better time! We drank hot cocoa afterward and made plans for more tubing this winter. If you have favorite memories of sledding, we’d love to hear from you! Go to America at Play: Play Stories to share your stories, pictures, and videos.