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Friday, December 16, 2005

Rocket Love

They say up here that you will dread the winter if you don't find a way to get out and enjoy it. My biggest winter enjoyment is sledding.

I've been an avid skier for many years. I was logging 50 days on the slopes while in high school, but 7 years in the Southern Appalachians tempered my appetite (yes I did ski plenty in West Virginia, but it really wasn't the same). One of my main motivations in coming back north was the skiing. But recurring foot problems (= boot fitting problems) and a lack of financial resources (Stowe: $76/day and $1,507/season pass) have kept me off the lifts. That's what brought me to sledding. Not the sledding from my youthful days, but Free Sledding/Backcountry Sledding.

Free Sledding involves the use of a highly maneuverable sled where the fun is opened up to more then backyard slopes, but closed roads, and the backcountry. At this point three free sleds are on the market: the Vermont made Hammerhead, the international Airboard, and the Warren, Vermont based Mad River Rocket. All three provide the rider the chance to zip down previously unavailable terrain with incredible speed and control. The first two require the rider to go head first, while the Mad River Rocket sledder sits in a kneeled position ala a kneeboard. The Rocket costs around $90 bucks, while the Hammerhead and Airboard will have you shelling out nearly $300 bones. Needless to say, I've got a Rocket.

There are kids out there doing amazing things with the Rocket. Some up in Underhill are jumping 80 ft gaps (video), corked 540s (video), and massive backflips (video). While I appreciate what they are doing, that just isn't my thing (even though I've got a nice little kicker in the backyard). What I live for is the backcountry: throwing on a pair of snowshoes and spending a good couple hours climbing up a trail and then bombing down it in less then 20 minutes. Well worn trails can make the riding like going down a luge track, although my favorite is riding deep powder through the trees. The steering isn't perfect, but with enough practice turns come easy. The best feeling is floating on top of the snow and swooshing along with minimal spray (can't imagine riding one of the other two sleds in those situations).

While the kids are on the town hill having a blast on the latest toy (like the skurfer, the snow hog, and this worst idea ever), I'll be puffing up through the woods looking for the perfect run (hoping I don't kill myself). Right now I'm loving winter.

Air - Surfing on a Rocket (Juan Maclean Remix).mp3


  • At 9:24 PM, Anonymous nico said…

    One of my best friends flew up to Stowe today to go skiing for the week. Sounds like fun.

  • At 11:54 PM, Blogger Flatlander said…

    I was watching a teenager go down the sledding hill in Hubbard Park on a Mad River Rocket. He was having a blast but then all of a sudden he was bumping along and fell to his side. His friends asked him if he was OK and he yelled "No!" He slowly got up but his knees seemed to be really bothering him.

    I know there is padding in there for your knees but how rough is the banging on your knees? The pounding is probably a lot worse on the sledding hill with the packed snow than it is in the woods with the powder but I'm just curious how your knees feel afterwards.

  • At 8:39 AM, Blogger jds said…

    I've never had any issues with my knees. Again, I hardly ever ride on the packed stuff. That hill in Hubbard Park is pretty dang crazy. It's fast, hard, & bumpy. The fluffy stuff absorbs all of the impact. The kids that fly 80ft in the air actually put the strap around their calves instead of their thighs, allowing them to absorb more of the impact as well as spin more affectively. Maybe that helps, but there's no way to bail once you get going.

    That being said, I'll be at Hubbard Park soon and will let you know.


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