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Wiping out in a winter wonderland: sledding in Oxford

There are few things more peaceful and serene than the world after a fresh snowfall. Wrapped in a blanket of white, the ground becomes a pristine canvas and the trees are draped gently in fluffy cotton. Days after a fresh snow are perfect for snuggling up inside and watching the world at rest. 

Or, in the case of my friends and me, for whipping down a muddy hill at dangerous speeds on cracked pieces of plastic and tenuously-inflated Wal-Mart pool toys.

This past Tuesday, as Oxford lay quiet under its coating of snow, three of my roommates and I decided it was the perfect weather for sledding. At Peffer Park, just a few minutes drive from our house, there was a hill that worked great. 

Only, we didn’t have any sleds. 

No problem, my roommate Alyssa assured us. We can just buy some at Wal-Mart. 

Well, Wal-Mart was out of sleds. But our plans weren’t spoiled just yet. The store was not out of inflatable pool toys, and given that it was the dead of winter, they just so happened to be on clearance. 

After a few arduous minutes of blowing the floats up in our living room — one individual blue raft, two individual green rafts and a large kiddie pool with cartoon sharks adorning the outside — we set off for the park. 

Upon arriving at Peffer at around 7 p.m., we encountered yet another hurdle standing between us and the high-octane sledding thrills we so desired; after an entire day of use, the hill was nearly entirely devoid of snow. Where a white and fluffy ramp of snow once lay, there instead sat a slick, muddy, icy patch of hill, just daring us to risk life and limb to slide down it. 

And, of course, we did. 

Boldly mounting our pool equipment — my roommate Connor and me on the individual rafts while Alyssa and Julia rode tandem in the kiddie pool — we launched over the hill. As gravity took hold and the wind whipped past my face, I realized it didn’t matter that there wasn’t any snow on the hill; we could still have a great time sledding. 

That is, until we got to the bottom and realized our makeshift sleds had been completely obliterated by the bumpy ride down. 

At last, it seemed that all might be lost. Despite having done our very best to make this sledding adventure happen, it looked as though we were doomed to only get one ride down the hill. But then, suddenly, Connor spotted a few objects lying dejectedly by the side of the hill. He triumphantly pulled three large, rectangular plastic container lids and a battered old suitcase up to the top of the hill, and all at once the adventure was back on. 

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We spent the best part of the next hour speeding down that muddy hill on our battered plastic lids, sustaining more than a few bumps and bruises along the way. 

Some highlights of the night: 

  • We also brought a clear, plastic box to use and upon riding it down for only the second time, Julia somehow shattered it into roughly 10 pieces. 

  • On our first ride down the hill, I accidently side swept Connor on my inflatable raft, knocking him off his and sending him tumbling down the rest of the hill. 

  • Speeding down the hill on my lid, I got turned around backward, and as I went, my hood got caught beneath the lid and my jacket almost strangled me. 

  • Julia wore boots that had absolutely no tread on them whatsoever and found that she couldn’t climb back up the hill at all, resulting in her having to slowly army crawl up the hill each time. 

Despite these numerous setbacks, as we limped home, winded, sore and entirely more exhausted than I ever remember being as a child, we all knew the process had been worth it.