Sledding the Northland

Sledding no longer means going straight down a steep
hill in a straight line, hoping nothing is in your way until
you gradually come to a stop. It has been redefi ned into
something more complex, into something that possibly
rivals skiing and snowboarding in a short run. Welcome to
the new world of winter sports.
Mad River Rocket Company has created a sled that gives
the person sledding control, much like skis or a snowboard.
You have to be sledding in a couple of inches or soft snow,
however. Its design packs snow underneath, creating a
monorail that causes one to gain control of the sled. If the
snow is hard packed, you have no control. You shift your
weight and use your hands to turn in surprising precision.
Dave Sellers started the Mad River Rocket in Vermont
25 years ago after a vision of sledding through trees
continuously.
These backcountry sleds make sledding more enjoyable,
and in the end, gives the rider many possibilities. It opens
up more areas to sled and even can be more maneuverable
in thick brush and trees than skis or snowboards.
On top of carving down slopes with these sleds, you
can also perform tricks in the air. Users of the sleds seem
to learn how to control them quickly and start performing
stunts easier than on skis or snowboards.
You kneel down on the Mad River Rocket and strap in
like you would with a kneeboard. These sleds are light,
and the thick foam padding keeps them relatively easy on
the knees. The Vermont-designed sleds are fairly durable
and made out of recycled plastic, and are meant to travel
through thick forest without too much trouble.
Russian Jack Park, located off of DeBarr Road on Lidia
Selkregg Lane, has some sledding hills fairly close to
campus. The park is open all day and doesn’t close till 11
p.m. The largest of the park’s hills aren’t very steep but
they are long with a gradual slope. It is also the most open.
This is located next to the Lidia Selkregg hut at the south
end of the parking lot.
If you travel west from the bottom of this hill, several
runs through trees can be found, and many end in jumps that
were built by patrons. The Municipality of Anchorage does
not recommend this, so sled at your own risk. Continuing
further in the same direction, it opens up a short steep slope
that is fairly open. Again, many runs from the top of the
hills here end in a few small jumps.
These sledding runs are very short, none of them lasting
more than 10 seconds from the top of the hill to the bottom.
Although short, they are very steep and you gain speed
quickly. The hike back up is much longer, but, there are
easy ways to bypass the steep slope and it is a generally
easy hike.
Critics of the sledding hills at Russian Jack Park say that
they are too quick and not worth the hike back to the top.
With the right run and possibly these new sleds, however, it
can provide many worthwhile runs. While generally clean,
some of the more distant hills found in Russian Jack Park,
there can be found remnants of people’s long nights; the
occasional glove, scarf, food wrapper or beer can be found
without looking too hard.
If Russian Jack doesn’t suit your sledding needs the
Municipality of Anchorage also has sledding hills in
Centennial Park, located on 8300 Glenn Highway, with
moderate to advanced slopes. Kincaid Park, on the west
end of Raspberry Road has some steep slopes that can last
longer as well.
Sledding is no longer a child’s sport and this underground
extreme free-sledding is slowly catching air.