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Extreme Sledding 101

Kids, snow and nerves

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What began as a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the hill ended with my almost 5-year-old daughter, Petra, locked in the car yelling her head off that I don't know shit about sledding.

She didn't actually curse at me as I tried to reason with her. No one knows anything about sledding, I explained. Besides general fitness, an understanding of the laws of gravity and basic rolling skills, sledding is one winter activity that anyone can do. Petra didn't buy it. (Maybe she's seen the extreme sledding YouTube vids.) Then I tried to bribe her with hot chocolate. Surprisingly, no go.

What would cause such misery in a kid graced with an afternoon of sledding with her friends?

Let's break it down: As we pulled up to the parking lot outside the restaurant at Terrace Lakes, an improbable golf resort just beyond Crouch on the Middle Fork of the Payette River, the birthday party for a 2-year-old took on the trappings of any other winter expedition. Each group geared up behind their ride, pulling gaiters from bags, matching little fingers to finger holes in gloves, placing thick hats, donning shades. Day packs with carrot slices. Muffins. One last swig of cold coffee.

Then we traipsed out over the hard snow to the sled-at-your-own-risk hill, 100 yards from the cars.

The first runs were fine. We started out a third of the way up, to test out the jumps and moguls. I rode with Petra on our red sled, making sure her legs were securely inside. But at some point, around our third run, she got spooked. It didn't help that the other kids were cruising past us, sledding and crashing on their own.

In any expedition, group dynamics are key, and when there are young minds in tow, this becomes even more important. While to us it was just a little hill 100 yards from the car, to the small kids, it was a mountain and the conditions--hard pack, hot sun--were extreme.

While I downplayed the risk, my wife had, unbeknownst to me, played it up just moments before, telling Petra to be careful. Our mixed signals combined with the growing chaos on the hill proved too much for her. She laid face down in the snow and cried about being the worst sledder.

I took her back to the car to calm down, but it was too late. She was the worst sledder, but she also didn't want to miss anything. To keep her from running barefoot through the muddy snow, I had to put her in her car seat and lock the doors, a technique that now seems pretty cruel but that I don't feel too bad about, since she obviously knows how to roll down the window and jump out.

While we hung at the car, one of the kids suffered a minor head wound, and we all packed up and headed over to a nearby hot spring. Within 20 minutes, the sledding disaster was forgotten and we were playing shark in the hot pools, the snowy mountains in the background.

We'll try sledding again on a powder day. And the wife and I will try to get our stories straight.

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