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Ah, the power of fresh powder


The Des Moines metro has plenty of prime spots for sledding. Why should kids have all the fun?

The Des Moines metro has plenty of prime spots for sledding. Why should kids have all the fun?

Sledding is one of the most favored physical (outdoor) activities in the winter months. It combines resistance and cardio training that inevitably leaves everyone involved sweating through his or her snow-pants. And the best parts? It’s pointless to do alone, and it’s free. Just grab a sled, a saucer, an inflatable tube, a toboggan, a garbage can lid, a food tray or the hood of a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle, and release your inner child. Embark on memory-making sledding adventures like these:

“My favorite sledding device is definitely an inflatable inner tube, said Tim Marlow. I would take the inner tube to the hill on the playgrounds of Western Hills Middle School, as well as my front yard. My front yard didn’t have much of a hill, but I made it work,”. “I used to construct ramps in my front yard that I could go off of. One time I decided to put water on the ramp to ice it down. However, when I went to sled off the ramp, the tube stopped at the base and my face hit the ramp. It resulted in a bloody nose and no more ice ramps.”

While Marlow learned from his misadventures, others decided that, despite technique, the temptation outweighs the risk.

“Back when I was a freshman at Iowa State, my friends and I were figuring out the best way to incorporate the freshly-fallen two feet of snow into our night,” said Danny Maller. “Then a knowledgeable sophomore at our table said, ‘People use the dining hall trays as sleds.’ But he said it in the most nonchalant way, like he was too cool for sledding. The rest of us knew better, so we finished up and took a few trays on our way out the hall.

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“We were a force. We slid down every single hill we could find. We built ramps that got air, and we got bruises to prove it. I hadn’t been sledding in a decade, and the lack of parental supervision was pretty sweet.”

As Maller and his friends called it a night, they passed one last house with fresh white powder, “unslayed by our sleds,” he recalled. So the group took a couple runs down the hill — even after determining the residence to be that of the university dean — when:


                  No one moved. No one spoke.

                  “Ya’ll want some fudge?”

It was the dean’s wife.

“She left them on the front porch for us, and we sat there covered in snow, mud and bruises eating glorious homemade fudge,” Maller said — proof that sledding is just as much of a universally understood nostalgia as the power of and appreciation for fresh powder.

“Years ago, when I was about 10 years old or so, my parents brought a sled home for my sisters made of some sort of orange Styrofoam material with a slick underside,” Tom Ochylski said. “The first day we took this sled to the neighborhood hill, which was behind the police station, we discovered that this was no ordinary kid’s sled. The thing flew like the wind with a ride so smooth that it was considered by many, including myself, to be the ‘Mercedes of the Snow.’ I bet it went from zero to 10 in about two seconds flat.

“All in all, anybody that wanted to race down the hill was served a heaping, steaming pile of humble pie with some shame-on-you sauce on the side. The neighborhood was ours, and everybody knew it.”

“I still have dreams about the half-mile stretch of hill on Grand Avenue heading down to 63rd,” added Alex Flesher. “Once, when I was 11, I woke up during a waning snowstorm and got dressed and went outside. It was just light, slow and steady snow. Very still and quiet. No cars. Fresh, untouched snow on the roads. I took a garbage can lid and walked to the top of the hill and stood there for a while in the middle of the road looking down. Eventually I chickened out and walked back home. But in my dreams, I’m flying down that hill.”

They say, in life, you regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did. So make these stories of memorable moments your own. Concede to the power of a snowy slope and work up a sweat until it freezes to your skin. CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

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