One of my winter mountain sledding experiences from childhood will always be permanently burned into my brain. My Dad had my sisters and me for the weekend and decided to take us up into the mountains with his girlfriend and her kids for an afternoon of sledding. It wasn’t an official sledding hill. I don’t remember where we went exactly, but my memory recollects it as “a side of the mountain near the road.” It was pretty much backcountry sledding.
We were the only ones there and the truck was parked at the bottom of the hill. Like right at the bottom. Since it was steep, the kids gained speed pretty quickly. This was a winter thrill ride. So much that as my sister was barreling down the hill, she was headed straight for the truck at the bottom. We all stood yelling for her to bail, but since she was going too fast, she was scared and stayed on. And as she was just about to hit the truck, she ducked and slid right under. It took hours for our hearts to stop racing and it was a mountain story we’d remember for life.
Earlier this summer I hiked the worn non-official trail at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park. The same area that used to be a ski resort, and one that is terribly missed by many long-time locals. In this post I mentioned that I’d get back to this area in the winter to sled with the kids since it is an official sledding spot, which I think is pretty notable in a National Park! It’s close to backcountry sledding since most of the popular sledding hills are random spots within Fort Collins.
My boys are thrill seekers, and sadly Hidden Valley was a tad disappointing.
Right after the holidays I packed the kids up on the Subaru and we hit the road for winter adventure in Estes. We saw a good number of animals on the way up, which was cool!
The roads were slick and there were plenty of warning signs within RMNP. Since the weather had been atrocious with cars sliding off the highway (we saw at least four left over from the night before), there weren’t hoards of people in the park, which was nice because I figured we’d be battling crowds while kids all over Northern Colorado were on winter break.
For some reason during the summer I was envisioning a larger hill with a steeper incline – something a little more exhilarating for thrill seekers. Isn’t that what sledding is all about? Nearly reckless speed? Or maybe I was hoping for a longer run, since we were in previous ski resort. It was a small kiddie hill.
There were people visiting Colorado for vacation having the time of their lives. Little kids had a blast too. And maybe that’s where the novelty lies? If you’re a local who’s out there in the mountain snow fairly often, this seems more like a place for tourists. Sure, the scenery is beautiful, but the experience is tame.
Although, I still had fun watching people dodge incoming sleds. That never gets old no matter where you are.
The major benefit to sledding here is the warming hut. It’s a large room lined with heavy wooden benches and electricity. People will hangout to warm up their toes and eat snacks and drink hot chocolate. It’s a cool perk, but still not one that will draw us back. I feel like once you’ve been sledding here, you really don’t need to come back. I did see a handful of people snowboarding and backcountry skiing on the mountain higher up, so maybe that’s where the real fun resides.
The silver lining? The kids didn’t go fast enough to worry about broken arms or concussions. So, at least there’s that!