As the weather begins to get cooler, and the possibility of winter precipitation looms somewhere in the long range forecast, my thoughts have been turning more and more to winter fun. One of the gifts each of my kids got for Christmas last year was a plastic sled. I think my parents may have felt sorry for the kids, sledding on our makeshift substitutes. The kids looked forward to sledding for the first time on their real, store-bought sleds, but we never got enough snow last winter to make it happen.
This year, having survived one of the hottest summers and perhaps one of the worst droughts in Oklahoma history, even those of us who hate snow and ice are hoping for precipitation in almost any form this winter. And if the fluffy white stuff should fall from the sky, our sleds are ready and waiting. But before we take those new toys to the top of the hill, I am going to teach my kids a very important skill: how to fall.
You can't stop a sled
I remember several years ago, before we had kids, my husband and I visited one of the best sledding hills in Oklahoma City. It was very crowded, and there were lots of collisions as people just couldn't seem to remember to get out of the way at the bottom of the hill. Some of the funniest moments were when little kids went barreling toward their own parents, the children yelling, "Get out of the way!" and the parents screaming, "Stop!" Everyone knew that neither was a possibility before the inevitable crash. Thankfully, even though lots of people fell in the snow, no one seemed to get hurt.
That is, until one kid actually did. I learned that day that sometimes sleds go farther and faster than you would have ever thought possible, based on their previous runs. We all watched in helpless silence as one boy rode his sled all the way down the hill, all the way across the clearing, and straight into a ditch full of slushy, half frozen water, screaming all the way. If only he'd known he couldn't stop the sled, but he might have stopped himself. He was alright, other than some scrapes and bruises and ending up cold and wet from head to toe.
How to abandon a runaway sled
There might be more graceful ways to abandon a runaway sled, and I would love to read about them in your comments. The easiest and safest way I know is pretty simple. First, you have to realize that a face full of snow is better and less painful than plowing into your friend or flying off into a ditch. That's sort of like the big leap that makes the rest of the maneuver possible.
Once you've made your decision to leave the sled, lie back. Pull your arms up to protect your face. Then, in as smooth a motion as you can manage, roll off the sled to one side, landing in the snow. You may roll a few times, you'll almost certainly get covered in snow, and your sled will almost surely head right on down the hill without you. But at least you may avoid ramming into a dangerous obstacle, possibly injuring yourself and others.
More by Tavia:
Tavia worked as a naturalist and recreation specialist at an Oklahoma lake during her college years. She enjoys using what she learned as an outdoor educator in her work with children today.
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