UMass offers prime sledding locations

By Alyssa Creamer

Finally, winter in New England has been transformed to its traditional glory with blankets of snow covering every inch of the ground.

For some, the beauty of the snow queen’s fairy dust  is often disregarded in light of the many inconveniences ice, cold and slush present. However, University of Massachusetts students should remember there is wonderful snow-filled fun to be had through sledding.

The art of sledding may seem like a simple process – perhaps no where near an art form – but this reporter begs to differ.

Sledding at a University with large and varied landscapes gives students enormous opportunities to challenge their previous sledding experiences and conquer bigger, badder and busier hills. So the first thing one must ask when planning a morning of sledding is, how much of a badass am I?

Feeling pretty badass? Set up shop in Orchard Hill. Rather than being of the same frame of mind as every other UMass student, though, ignore the hill – that’s the University’s bunny slope. Everest rests in the conquest of gliding gracefully down all of Clark Hill Road.

So, that’s the ultimate adventure. A frozen, less-than-quarter-mile free-slide down one of the steepest streets on campus, starting at Van Meter dormitory (Butterfield dormitory has a bit of a plateau, which will make increasing velocity near impossible) and ending, god-willing, before the road intersects with Thatcher Drive.

Residents of Central and Orchard Hill Residential Areas who master this sledding expedition will have found a new, fantastic way to start their day before classes. But what to do with the sled after making it down is an important question. After all, people can’t be bringing retro 1950s sleds to class, so wooden and metal frames won’t do. This is an opportunity for some inventive solutions. Students traditionally have stolen dining hall trays to use as makeshift sleds. Although The Massachusetts Daily Collegian certainly does not endorse theft, the trays worked quite well. Take note of the fact that dining halls have been tray-less for over a year, but ask around older crowds of UMass students to see if they’re still hoarding an old “tray-sled.” Or contact elderly living centers, local public K-12 schools to see if any extra trays are available for sale or as a donation to the quest to conquer the open white roads. It’s a liberating rush to whoosh downward with only a piece of plastic separating one’s body from the earth and elements below.

Cardboard can make a nice disposable sled that will instantly solve the problem of getting rid of a sled before class.

There are also several websites such as snowsleds.net that have a wide variety of snow sleds for all ages. Plastic snow sleds are nice and more durable for those who want to keep their sled for a winter season.

For those who find the cold off-putting or just have a feeling that sledding isn’t what it used to be, attire and level of intoxication can fix both of these qualms.

Dress to be outdoors. A cashmere or pashmina scarf is not the kind of a scarf that can cut it for neck warmth when wind chills and open air will be running through the bones of a dedicated sledder. Instead, turtlenecks wrapped with a tightly-knitted wool or thick fleece scarf or shawl will handle upper body warmth. Sledding is a time during which mother’s message to “put on your coat” applies. Also, snow pants, or at the very least, quality long johns beneath thick jeans will keep legs toasty. Gloves are an absolute must. One’s hands are vital to steering the sled, and snow on skin is an unbearable feeling after 10 minutes.

A game of strip sledding, in which participants shed an item of clothing depending on who reaches the bottom of the hill slowest, may sound exciting, but is an ill-advised decision.

Again, if sledding isn’t exciting enough, then do what UMass students do best – turn it into a drinking game! Participants slide down to the bottom with a trusty flask of a favorite liquor tucked away on their person. At the bottom of the hill, before the long climb up, take a shot-sized swig. The climb onward and upward will certainly be more interesting for any group of friends to witness and experience. First friend to fall on their face is subject to public shaming or just more liquor.

Live life dangerously. Treat every sled ride like it’s your last, because after a couple shots sliding down Clark Hill Road, it just might be.

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected]