Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Greatest Snow (Mishaps) on Earth: Snow Tubing

My little White girls after a day of sledding in Provo more than a decade ago.
You’ll remember my experience downhill skiing (aka human bowling, aka across-hill stomping) as a 13-year-old.  I wish I had remembered it a year later because that experience should have taught me not to join the annual ski trip with my church’s youth. But I was a slow learner when it came to those sorts of things.

Look how they've grown!  (#5 has been born.)
So far, #3, my current eighth-grader, has escaped this winter
unscathed.  She does not take after her mother in that respect.
This selfie is from our New Year's Eve sledding at East Canyon.
My sister, Carolyn, was kind crazy enough to invite us to
share her vacation condo and disturb her peace for a few days.
The winter of my eighth-grade year came around and I found myself piled into another minivan on our way to the same ski resort.  This time however, I was determined to not give the bunny hill a second chance.  Instead, I convinced a few other friends that we should join those who were snow tubing.  The ski resort had a really great “hill” for this.  In plowing their road all winter, the resort had built a big berm of snow between the road and the stretches of meadow that were now blanketed in several feet of Utah powder, This sloping meadow made for a wide tubing hill.  In theory, the bank of snow protected tubers by keeping them on the meadow side, rather than on the road side.  

(Do you see where this is going?)

The rental shop was very helpful in providing all sorts of injury-inducing snow gear, so that’s where we picked up our tubes.  We would ride our snow tubes on the meadow side of the snow bank, the long hill carrying us away from the lodge, probably a quarter of a mile.  One leader would drive on the road side of the bank, pick us up at the bottom of the hill, and drive us back up to the top of the road, where we would hop on our tubes for another ride.  It really was great fun.

Imagine these rolling hills covered in snow and children sledding.
Tangent time! Next to ice skating, flying downhill on an out-of-control piece of plastic was my favorite winter activity.  My parents used to take us sledding at the Mount Ogden Golf Course.  The course crawls up the foothills of Ogden, Utah, becoming a perfect sledding site in the winter.  We used to plant our three-person toboggan at the base of the trees that line the course, load everyone on while one parent held us in place, and then race down the hill into the open, wide space below.  There was plenty of room for dozens of sledders coming down the foothills together.

#5 on a sled run at East Canyon, circa 2015

Sledding, the next generation.
This saucer wasn't built for three people, but it's a step up
from the laundry basket that carried our kids down the hill
the previous year.  I like how #4 is "buckled" in by Dad's leg.

After a few outings, my family became more sledding savvy.  In addition to our plastic toboggan and Flexible Flyer, we started bringing our tubes.  In those early years, we went sliding on the big, black tractor inner tubes that we used for floating canyon rivers in the summer.  One or two of us would climb on, avoiding the giant inflation stem, wrapping our little arms around the sides and around each other, and clinging for dear life as we screamed with exhilaration all the way down the slope until it leveled out somewhere on the tenth fairway. Then I'd call Alfie, our Golden Retriever, who would retrieve my tube's rope and drag the tube to the next sibling waiting at the top of the hill.

The year that we got the yellow waterpark tubes was special, because then we had handles and we could take on the man-made snow bumps that would launch us into the air.  I distinctly remember taking flight like this photo shows.  There was one run where my tube and I became separated in the air, but gravity brought us back together and we continued down the slope.  It was both breathtaking and intoxicating!  

Back to that fateful night with the youth.  As an experienced tuber, I was confident that the ski resort’s lengthy tubing hill would convince my friends that sitting in a plastic doughnut and handing all control over to gravity was obviously superior to racing downhill with poles and skis on which one could supposedly stop and start as desired.  My friends and I made our first tube run with no mishaps--just lots of laughs and shrieks.  Good stuff!  But fate was teasing me.

We piled with our tubes in the back of the pickup truck for our lift to the top.  (For those readers who are worried by the fact that we weren’t buckled safely in the cab, just know that this was a compromise.  Out here in the West, another winter sport, when there aren’t hills around, is to simply hitch trains of toboggans behind a truck and get pulled around icy parking lots.)  This tubing train idea caught in our brains that night, too.  At the top of the road, my friends and I lined up our tubes side-by-side, grabbing each other’s handles to attempt to go down the hill in chain formation.  The natural bulges and depressions in the meadow’s snow forced us apart as we picked up speed.  I must have hit one of those snow bumps exactly the wrong way, because it bounced my tube right to the protective berm that stood between me and the road.  I remember hitting the edge of that berm like it was a surf wave, flying into the air, and hanging onto my tube for dear life.  I did not want to lose that tube!  The tube and I both flipped over in mid air and came down on the road.  We then proceeded to slide along the asphalt for a few yards--upside down. Upside down, aka on my face.  

I don’t remember my first thought, other than being confused about how this had happened.  Why had snow tubing turned on me?  Literally.  Then I noticed that my face burned. I suppose, given my luck, I should be grateful that I didn’t land on my leader’s truck or under its tires.  The adult leader who had been driving alongside us on the road stopped and climbed out as my friends punched holed with their boots across the tubing hill to see if I had survived.  

Everyone was a little concerned, I think, by the blood and sandy gravel covering my face. Back at the ski lodge, I spent the next half hour in the bathroom with wet paper towels, picking bits of road out of my face. Once again, my snow “fun” had turned into another evening alone in the ski lodge.  As dozens of teenage skiers returned, I had the displeasure of telling my tale over and over to all who saw my face and asked, “What happened?”
One of the tamer GPK.
I never liked these cards.

I got to repeat the retelling several times at school the next day, too. It was humbling to face my peers 12 hours later with scabby road rash face. I looked pretty gross. But it turns out that in eighth grade, gross can be good. (Keep in mind, this was in the age of Garbage Pail Kids.) My face earned me a lot of attention that day, including from the boy I then had a crush on. He seemed particularly impressed by my toughness, as evidenced by his compliment at the end of my story: "Cool."  

Go road rash!


Paul said...

I still get a shiver when I re-hear this story and recall the shock of seeing you when you returned home from that outing!

VickieG said...

You really don't have good luck with winter sports do you? Again, this is one of those horrific childhood episodes that I can't seem to recall, so thanks for sharing.