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A Sledge Ride February 5, 2009

Posted by gordonwatts in Snow, travel.

I’m at a trigger workshop in Beatenberg, Switzerland. In the Alps. There was an ad-hoc trip arranged – a sledge ride. When this was first mentioned all I could think of was the stuff that comes out of a sewer plant (sludge). The second thing was a really big sleigh pulled by horses or rain deer. I’d never heard of a sledge before!

It is basically a sleigh. We took a cable car to the top of the local mountain, and then for 25 minutes whizzed down at break-neck speed. These things aren’t like the sleigh’s I used when I was a kid: there are no handles to steer with. You sit up on them instead:


You use your two feet – your heels – to steer. It is opposite steering, of course: you dig in your left heel in to turn right. The problem is you are going so fast that your heel doesn’t just dig in: it skips. This means a big plume of snow shoots up and totally blinds you: which alleviates your need to turn because you can no longer see where you are turning! To break you bring your feed flat and push down. To help, this was at night with just the light of the moon and these tiny little lanterns.

I crashed twice. Both times at the same place. Everyone had boots except me and one other person. We had sneakers. Sneakers do not bite into hard packed snow very well, and when the snow is crusted over there really is nothing that can be done! I was wearing jeans and they were frozzen solid by the time I was finished. If you look at the picture above you can see a small plume of snow behind the boot heel – when you are going fast this plume is quite a bit larger and shoots straight up your jeans. 🙂

But boy it is a lot of fun! A run is 25 minutes long. The last time I was on a sled was at Tommy’s pond, back in New Jersey. It took about 30 seconds to sled from top to bottom. I’d do it again in a second. Reminds me I really want to learn how to snowboard. Pictures from this and the rest of the week here.

UPDATE: I must not be remembering correctly – left heal means turn left, not right. My body knew what to do (I only lost it due to steering once!), but my mind was on the fritz! Sorry – and thanks for spotting it.



1. Benjamin - February 5, 2009

I think I know why you crashed… when you dig in your right heel you will turn right, not left. I guess you didn’t notice from all the snow in your face 🙂

2. Gordon Watts - February 5, 2009

That is if your feet are dragging behind. When they are in front, it is opposite steering. I’m about 100% sure of that after been schooled by a local Swiss… 🙂

3. Benjamin - February 6, 2009

Braking left means right overturns left means steering to the left.
Why would it depend on whether your feet are behind or in front?
Oh, and I am a local Swiss 🙂

4. Gordon Watts - February 6, 2009

Hmmm… you analysis seems correct. but I pretty clearly remember it the other way – in fact, I was constantly doing it “wrong” and I’d start shooting myself off the groomed piest. i’ll have to find the other local Swiss here and ask him if my memory is bad!

5. Gordon Watts - February 6, 2009

Ok — some more research — my memory is broken. Some how my body knew what to do but my mind didn’t. So you are correct!

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