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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

The Little Sled that Could

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(12/2012) Snow. That simple word brings forth so many memories from the far reaches of my dusty mind. I remember playing with my cousins in the backyard when I was around twelve, creating the largest possible snow boulder Ė it was at least as tall as the sides of our above ground pool. I remember building a snow man reclining on a lounge chair on our front porch. I remember Snowmageddon and being out of school for a week my senior year of high school. Perhaps one of my fondest memories, though, is of the very common childhood adventure of sledding.

Before we moved onto the farm where I live now, my family used to live in a more suburban area. The yard was very flat and therefore not a sledding paradise. To compensate, my father would always take me and my older brother to a local hillside at the Western Maryland College golf course for some proper sledding terrain. The hill was, and still is, a popular sledding location. Overlooking the collegeís track field, itís never had much of a view, but it makes up for it with a steep incline.

The dynamics of the hill could be divided up into three basic groups: those who climbed part of the way, those who climbed all the way, and the stunt attempters. The "part-way-ers" usually consisted of families with younger children. The protective parents tended to stay closer to the bottom of the hill, going just high enough to let the child sled, but not so high that the sled would speed out of control. "All-the-way-ers" were families with older or more daring children who headed to the top of the hill, just inside the tree line that graced the peak. It was a steeper, longer walk, but well worth the long, fast ride down the hill. The "stunt attempters" were often a group of young men attempting to snowboard Ėusually not very well.

My family has always been of the "all-the-way" classification. I trudged up the hill in line behind my family. My brother carried a black sled, my father had a boogie board, and I followed up the group in my pink snow pants, dragging a bright red sled behind me. My mom was less daring, and would usually take a spectator position Ė probably awaiting any injuries to come sliding straight into her arms.

The snow was usually properly packed down by the time my family arrived. Other families had already conquered the terrain, packing down any powdery snow into a tight sheet of icy track begging to be put to use. Of course, this also made the climb to the top much harder. The designated foot path was by then full of pot holes, ruts, and hundreds of footprints which had sufficiently churned what was once a smooth, white blanket into a bumpy, frozen wasteland.

At least three stumbles were required to earn your place at the top of the hill. Only the proficient dared to run the path. Many failed. Some were unlucky enough to slide down on their stomachs when they lost their footing and had to restart the arduous journey to the top. Others would stumble and regain their balance but lose grip of their slide. They could do little but watch as the piece of plastic slid quickly away from them, knowing that turning back was the only other option.

The survivors bore their burden in silence. All cheerful chatter ceased until the top was reached and an easy breath could be taken. The successful were able to stand at the summit and look out over the conquered hillside, reveling in their accomplishment and eager for what was to come.

After my family reached the top, we took such a moment of pause, catching our breath and watching the specks below us playing in the snow. Then we set about finding the perfect take off point. My father found a spot just inside the tree line, the highest you could go. Only the brave would dare it. He analyzed the area. It was well packed, no trees blocked the exit from the woods, and none were waiting at the bottom. Satisfied, my brother was allowed to go first. He took his position on his black sled, shoved off and flew down the hill side. My father and I watched, waiting for him to reach the bottom, and shouted in triumph when he did.

I was next. I positioned my little red sled and sat squarely on the seat. My hands wrapped around the rope handle like a vice. A moment of hesitation, then I dove down the hill side. I was unable to hear anything but the wind roaring past my ears. My eyes watered from the cold air hitting my face, and my mouth froze in a large grin, when all of sudden Ė Houston, we have a problem.

A group of "stunt attempters" lingered to my right, just off the high traffic sledding zone. Their misguided attempt at mastering the snowboard led them to build a small two-foot jump out of snow. Presumably, a simple enough task for a snowboarder, but an unanticipated obstacle for a young sledder catapulting down the hill side.

I yanked on the rope and leaned to the left, trying to redirect my sled, but it was too late. All I could do was shout and wave the snowboarders out of my way. I closed my eyes, thinking I was certainly going to collide with one of them. I opened them to see the faces of five teenage boys watching in awe as my little red sled soared over the jump, landing with a sharp thud on the other side.

I heard cheering follow me down the hillside, but I could only feel the instant bruise on my bottom. Amazingly, my sled didnít crack on impact, and I drifted to an easy stop at the bottom of the hill. My dad soon slid to a stop beside me, roaring with laughter. "You went straight for it!" he said in between chuckles. Trust me, I didnít mean to.

Iíve since had many more snow adventures, and while this one will always stand out because of the unique circumstances, I cherish each memory. Whether itís because weíre snowed in for a couple days or weíve gone out of our way for a sledding adventure, each snow memory has one thing in common Ė itís a time Iíve spent with my family and friends. As far as Iím concerned, each memory with them is just one more reason to love snow.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones