By Jenny Neyman
Strategies for launching oneself down the sledding hill behind Skyview High School on Monday were as diverse as the modes of transportation.
Toboggans, snow saucers, a snowboard, single-person sled sheets and various-sized tubes whizzed down the hill and across the field, with occasional kids taking a trip down via nothing more than gravity and the seat of their snowpants.
For some, the goal was just to get on and go, not caring whether they ended up facing backward or forward, launching off or avoiding the snow ramps dotting the hill, covering the distance all the way to the hockey rink or tumbling out somewhere along the way.
For others, there was an art involved.
John, 9, and Ben Grossl, “turning 8 on June 4,” were out for speed and to catch some air. They lined up for the series of two jumps and launched themselves onto their sled sheets with as much force as possible.
“I get a running start,” John explained. “I think it gets you going faster and I like getting higher jumps so I, like, run.”
Luke Beiser, 10, made run after run on his snowboard, aiming for jumps and trying out tricks while airborne. Sometimes the biggest trick was nailing a solid landing, but far more often than not he made it to the bottom still standing.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “Sometimes I fall and sometimes I make it. I practiced all year last year.”
At 2 years old, Cayden Huff isn’t old enough to have gotten much sledding practice in his life, but he was making the most of the sunny March afternoon. No sooner would he tumble out of whatever ride he’d been placed in then he’d head off back up the hill, tackling the long, steep march with more energy and determination than many of the older kids displayed.
Being one of the littlest sledders of the day, he got de facto adopted by several families, with other kids taking turns riding down with him, pulling him back up if he didn’t walk on his own, or coming over to dust him off after his few attempted solo runs ended in minor crashes.
Mom, Jessica Huff, said that Monday was only about their second time out sledding this winter. She and Cayden recently moved to the Kenai area from Anchorage, and said it hasn’t been a good winter for sledding.
“We haven’t gone much in Anchorage because it’s been so cold. The one time we did go I was dying. It was like, ‘OK, let’s go home,’” she said.
Huff took some trips down with Cayden in an adult-sized snow tube. It’s a good ride, but could use some padding in the seat, she said.
“Ow. You can really feel your butt on every bump,” she said.
If she wanted to sit a ride out, Cayden’s aunt, Amy Bucho, of Kenai, and cousins Brittany, 11, Alyssa, 8, and Blake, 5, were there to fill in.
“We’re just getting the kids outside and having some family fun in the sunshine and warm weather,” Bucho said.
The Burke family, of Kenai, was making the most of the first day of spring break week. Mom, Jae Burke, said that Monday was the only day of spring break both she and her husband, Eric, had off together, so they let their daughters, Bailey, 9, and Taylor, 13, choose their day’s activity.
“The kids wanted to go sledding. This is their spring break so we did what they wanted to do,” Jae said. “We’ll go to Homer in a little bit and take pictures of the eagles, but they wanted to go sledding first while there’s lots of light.”
Being from Kenai, they don’t get to the Skyview hill often, Jae said, but it’s the kids’ favorite. Taylor was starting to revise that opinion after sledding in jeans and without a hat for a while.
“I’m ready to sit in the car. I’m cold and in pain,” she said. “I haven’t been sledding in a while, and it’s kind of fun. But it’s tiring and I keep falling off.”
Bailey wasn’t showing signs of slowing down, despite a rough landing that had her hair caked with snow. She got dusted off by her mom at the bottom of the hill before heading back up to the top, where her dad was waiting.
“My dad always pushes me, ’cuz it’s really fun and we slide down really fast,” Bailey said.
“This one doesn’t have a whole lot of weight to her,” Jae said. “But she’d go down on her snowpants if she had to.”
Brittney’s transportation that day was a snow saucer. She said she didn’t care what kind of sled she had, but she did have a favorite method of descent:
“Crisscross applesauce with the rope inside.”