It’s been a bit of a strange month, so what better way to relax and recuperate than a trip to the mountains? And what nicer way to enjoy it than a spot of sledging, right? It’s a nice, jolly, fun way to enjoy the snow. ‘Super easy’, as my convincing friend said.
This was last weekend and I wanted to go skiing. Correction, I wanted to thump along the floor like a pro in my new ski boots. I love walking everywhere like I’m on the moon and pretending I’ve just negotiated a black run when I barely got down the blue. Then, sitting down for the apres-ski; un-clicking my boots, whilst breathing a sigh of relief over the immense amount of mountain k’s I’ve just covered. Walking up to the restaurant with a plastic sledge and wearing my snow boots just didn’t cut it for me.
But the idea of a less fearful, less stressful and altogether more enjoyable schneefahren experience? That did. After considering the possibility of just wearing my ski boots in the car on the way there, I agreed to go.
To put you in the picture, my experience of sledging is limited. I didn’t know this, but sliding twenty metres down an English country hill on the one snow day of the year, is not quite the same as sledging Swiss-style. Naive as I am, I truly believed it would be a leisurely meander down a gentle hundred metre or so slope, with plenty of places to stop and turn the sledge if I needed to.
Imagine my surprise (read gut-wrenching fear), when I sat on my sledge (let’s call him Seth) at the beginning of the run, among skiers and snow boarders and all I could see was…. nothing. It wasn’t a slope, it was a sheer drop! It’s ok for the skiers, they can go side to side to get down. They have legs and arms with different equipment attached, to help them steer, go left, right and make wedges to stop. Seth, however, had something to pull him along with and something to hold on to. That’s it. No brakes, no steering, nothing to lean on. It was me, a piece of plastic and my nerve. An area in which I’m severely lacking.
I refused to go down, but Seth wasn’t having any of it. He started moving without asking. I had a choice – go with him, or launch myself off at a hundred miles an hour into an angry skier. So I went the only way you can go when you’ve got a sledge attached to your bum – down – screaming profanities at the top of my lungs and trying to work out how not to crash into the chalet, or the people strolling toward it with their Coop shopping bags.
Somehow Seth stopped, he must have seen the house. Just as I was contemplating how on earth I would get back up the slope because there was no way I was doing that again, I realised that this was actually the ski slope. Great news, the sledging run went off on its own to the right. It looked much gentler, narrower and had great big bank of snow to stop you falling off the mountain. I was starting to enjoy this new experience! We were back in the game. Let’s get our s**t together Seth.
It started well enough, not too fast, not too steep. Then we came across the first bump. Not any bump, but a series of crevasses in the snow, which Seth happily flew over. Sledges aren’t very flexible, they fly up and land back down, just like that. Ouch. That brings me to the corners. No, hairpin bends. Why do mountains have to have tight corners? The mountain is huge; surely some lovely, long flowing bends are possible, to make the whole experience a little more enjoyable. A sledge only goes straight, corners don’t. Seth was not helping me out – come in feet, to try to slow us down whilst taking care not to snap off on the oncoming bumps.
Somehow I made down 3.5 km of sledging run, with both myself and Seth in one piece. Using my feet all the way down didn’t help my snow boots much, or my feet for that matter, but I got there. Then I tortured myself twice more. Seth loved it of course.
As much I grew attached to Seth, I don’t think sledging and I are compatible. It hurts, much more than my ski boots ever did. It makes your feet feel like they’re falling off. It jolts your back. And your neck. And your legs. It hurts your hands as you hang on for dear life and your throat goes numb from screaming. Exhilarating? Maybe. Crazy? Definitely. It’s reminds me of Swiss drivers when they get to the border.
I’ll take skiing any day.