A grown-up's guide to sledding 

PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
  • PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER

As an adult, it can be difficult to find the time for nostalgic, winter staples, like sledding. There is something so simple about racing down a frozen hill, uncontrollably giggling and forgetting about your obligations for a fleeting moment. Now that I'm older and wiser, but still a kid at heart, sledding makes a long, bleak winter into something I've come to anticipate.

I remember, one Christmas break years ago, I begged my dad to take me and my friends out sledding. He tied his old-fashioned, five-foot-long, wooden toboggan with red iron rails to the top of his old Buick and we headed to Bullard Park in Albion. Inside the park is a steep hill with a rushing creek at the bottom. If you were a pro, like my friends and me, you knew how to not lose your sled: you had to take a sharp right before the old walnut tree. I've been chasing that thrill ever since.

No matter your age, it's still possible to catch those sledding thrills. But being all grown up, you'll need to reconsider the gear you bring, the beverages you pack, and the hills you chose to bomb. Just set your ego aside and let the good times roll.

Sleds

Let's be realistic, most adults without kids don't have sleds sitting around. If you need to buy something (or improvise), remember, you're not the size of an 8-year-old anymore. You'll need something sturdier. If you're on a budget, the easiest, most malleable object to grab is the lid to a Rubbermaid trash can. I've even used a twin-sized air mattress before. Just apply some cooking spray to the bottom of either DIY sleds and you're good to go. You can also find $5 plastic saucers at any dollar store in town, and Wilson Hardware on the corner of Monroe and Canterbury has sled options.

If you decide to splurge on something inflatable, make sure it's made of PVC, so it doesn't pop on the first run. Handles and a rope are crucial for the hike back up the hill. In my experience, it's not much of a thrill with more than two people on a sled, but if you decide to go that route, multi-person sleds should have plastic on the bottom and foam on top. Treating those sleds with ski wax will give it less friction.

Warm fuzzies

The great thing about going sledding as an adult is the ability to sip on some spirits while reliving your childhood — and flying down a cold hill at 20 miles per hour. The Holy Grail of sledding cocktails, in my opinion, is a simple hot cider mixed with Maker's Mark Bourbon. But fill up that trusty Thermos with any number of warm drinks: mulled wine, spiced Irish coffee, Kahlua and hot chocolate, or buttered rum.

Remember though, while booze makes you feel deceptively warmer, it actually drops your core temperature, so make sure you are keeping warm in other ways. Proper layering is key, and reliable winter gear is a must when spending a couple hours in below freezing weather. I've learned that water-resistant gloves go a long way while gripping to your sled for dear life, and snow pants or coveralls are crucial for keeping all that snow out and the heat in. And even with brand new boots, placing a plastic bag inside of them will keep your feet warm and dry.

PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER
  • PHOTO BY RENÉE HEININGER

The sweet spots

Cobb's Hill Park

There are two different major hills inside Cobb's Hill Park, each with its own risk factors. The most frequented hill is at the top of the reservoir. If you're night-sledding, the only way to access it is by climbing the hill from Monroe Avenue. Caution: you can pick up some serious speed here — I've slid past the utility building at the bottom and into the street. And watch out for a few handmade jumps that can seriously knock the wind out of you upon landing on your soon-to-be-sore ass.

The other hill is located near the former School 1 on Norris Drive. It's also doable after the sunsets, but if you're a speed demon like me, this one doesn't quite cut it. On a positive note, though, it's easier and faster to hike up than on the main hill.

Northampton Park

Northampton Park is located on Hubbell Road and Rt. 31 in Brockport. The park itself contains five trails, open all year around. On one side of the road is a downhill ski area operated by Swain, with rope towing. The sledding area can get crowded with kids on the weekends, but if you explore to the right of the hill, there's a small, tree-lined trail. It can be dangerous, but it's more fun than dodging toddlers. The bottom of the summit tends to fill with water if there was a mid-winter melt, so — coming from personal experience — roll off the sled before reaching the scummy pond.

Black Creek Park

In 8th grade, my best friend broke her leg on this hill. I know there are bigger hills, but this one is definitely the fastest. If you turn into the Union Street entrance and park at the Woodside Lodge, you will see a massive slope to the left. At the pinnacle of this hill, gravity takes hold like a rollercoaster about to freefall. You'll pick up speed and physics will take over, resulting in 180 degrees spins, maybe even a full 360 — leaving you slightly discombobulated and possibly nauseous. This is a slope that's definitely not for the inexperienced sledder, but definitely for thrill-seekers.

Highland Park

If you park at the top of the reservoir, you can see a literal bowl in the landscape. I wouldn't define this area as much of a hill; it's more like a demolition sledding derby. Kids and adults alike are speeding down the inclines from three sides, with a variety of pine trees scattered about — sledding there is more like a level of "Crash Bandicoot." If that's not your thing, scoot on down to the amphitheater. The hills there are more kid-friendly, with a slower pace and fewer obstacles.

Perinton Community Center

Much like Black Creek Park, there is one impressive hill that will appeal to sledders over the age of 10. The younger kids can utilize the gentler slope beside the main hill — although, I did notice some busted sleds at the bottom; I'm curious if I didn't take the right descending lane. I have only experienced this hill once, due to the long climb back to the top. I wouldn't recommend buzzed sledding here, either, since it's the most populated hill in Fairport.

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