Sledding: the new snowboarding in Eagle County?
Snowboarder friends often ask Mike Kemble about his ride.It usually goes down something like this:Kemble: What type of board do you have?The friend: [rattles off the brand name of his snowboard, usually a high-profile label like Burton]. So what do you ride?Kemble: Oh, a Pelican.The friend: [confusion] What kind of board is that? Ive never heard of that.Kemble: Oh, its a sled.The Pelican, a plastic sled Kemble purchased at Sports Authority in Avon, is his answer to a perplexing problem. How does a regular guy save up to drop hundreds of dollars on lift tickets at Vail Mountain? Simple. Twenty-one-year-old Kemble eschewed snowboarding in favor of a cheaper if somewhat less socially-acceptable winter activity: sledding.I tell everyone I see: Im starting a revolution with sledding, the Gypsum resident said.
Thanks to the Vail Valleys mountainous terrain, sledding enthusiasts have plenty of hills to choose from. From a gentle hill at Eagle-Vail Golf Club to the ominous Danger Hill by Eagle cemetery, Pelican-worthy terrain abounds. Most of the sledding that goes on is informal, but there are a few places where locals can do organized tubing. Eagle spouses Kim and Bob Nock have been operating a tubing hill in Minturn for the past three years. The hill, which is tentatively slated to open Saturday, Dec. 22, features a lift and several sledding lanes. Kim Nock said one luge-style run will send sledders winding through trees.Its a lot of fun, she said. Really anyone can do it. Weve had little babies out there. We had a lady who was in a wheel chair and her husband helped put her in the tube. That was really neat to see that.
The revolution began at Starbucks in Eagle, where Kemble works. He was standing at the coffee bar with a buddy/coworker when snow started falling outside the window. The flakes inspired a conversation about how pricey snowboarding is, and soon an idea was born. The friends bought plastic sleds and set out to explore the areas unofficial slopes. They learned to avoid rocks at the hill behind Costco in Gypsum.They discovered West Park, a quaint hill in Eagle-Vail that was perfect for sledding, though parking proved scarce.Kemble built jumps by scooping up the snow with the Pelican and rolling the sled over-top to smooth them out.It was good times almost too good to be true.
The pelican was $14.99 worth of pure speed. Kemble bought it last month in a moment of optimism. He had just moved to town from California and even though he worked three jobs, he lacked the cash to join the herd headed for the slopes.With the Pelican, that wouldnt matter.The sled tore through powder. It sliced through slush. It soared over jumps with a grace that would put any snowboard to shame.Then one day, the Pelican cracked.Earlier this week, Kemble amassed a long jump at the top of a hill at West Park. Then he went for it. The 21-year-old launched off the jump, went airborne, then slammed to the ground, sending a small crack through the Pelican.The point was to clear the whole hill and it didnt work out for my sled, Kemble said. My sled wasnt ready for the action.The crack was the beginning of the end. The Pelican took a fatal beating a few days later during a snowball fight with friends at Kembles house, where he used the sled as a shield and it broke.Kemble has been making do with an inner tube, but he plans to rmake an encore at Sports Authority.I will be looking to purchase another Pelican, he said.
Proper equipment is crucial to a good day of sledding. Along with obvious a sled those looking to make a day of it should pack a snack and a shovel if they plan to build jumps, Kemble said.My strategy is just be ready to sled and have enough energy to do it and be ready to have fun, he said.Just as snowboarding requires practice, sledding demands a certain degree of stamina and skill.A lot of times you get a little tired from sledding because youre walking uphill and downhill and uphill and downhill, Kemble said. Know your terrain for sure because you dont want to smack into anything. Know where youre sledding. Be careful of dog poop. I would say just watch your terrain. Be safe for sure. Its all about having fun when you go sledding.Arts & Entertainment writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or email@example.com.