Sunday, May 2, 2010

Europeans do sledding the right way

At night, the ski resorts groom some of the ski runs (usually the cat walks), close them off for 1-2 hours to enable them to freeze, and then open the slopes for night-time sledding. 

Instead of using safety-aproved plastic sleds, Europeans use the old fashioned sleds with metal bottoms (seen in the US in the 1950's) with minor improvements.  This sleds are designed to go fast, and with a little wax, will go even faster.  This makes for entertaining sledding as there are ony rudimentary steering mechanisms to control them (i.e. if you want to turn right, put your right foot out).

In March, a group of colleagues and I went skiing in Gaschurn, Austria during on our annual ski trip. My sledding experience went something like this:

6:00pm - arrive at the mtn. base, rent the sled, have a drink with friends at the bar at the mtn. base
7:00pm - take chairlift to the top of the slope
7:15pm - walk to a small, cozy, wooden chalet at the top of the mountain
7:30pm - have another drink at the chalet, join in on a round of singing, play some hammer game where you try to hammer a nail into a piece of wood using the pointy side of the hammer (mandatory game in Europe)
8:00pm - THE RACE START! (there was a group of 20 friends racing)
8:01pm - fall hard while practicing turning
8:02pm - master the art of turning
8:03pm - get passed by 2 friends sharing a sled (1 of them smiled and yelled "we are the champions" while passing me)
8:05pm - realize that I'm dripping wet (due to copious amounts of snow flying onto me whenever I put my foot down to turn and also because the snow was very slushy)
8:10pm - pass the 2 friends on the sled who have just wiped out
8:15pm - get my pic taken by another friend (I haven't seen the pic yet, but I imagine that in the pic there is a full-on shower of water/snow streaming into my face and I have a look of "trying to smile/trying to turn/trying not to fall/trying to keep my eyes open with all the slush going in them")
8:20pm - CRASH! (the friend in front of me wipes out on his sled, takes my sled out, takes out the 2 friends sharing a sled, and another friend)  I skidded a good 10 ft. face-first in slush.  There was definitely a need for a hair dryer and clothes dryer after this.
8:30pm - THE FINISH!  I got 3rd place out of 20. :)

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