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Friday, February 8, 2013

Sledheads

Adventures in Sledding With Children

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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My family’s sledding adventure hit a road bump — er, mogul? — before we even reached a hill. Since last winter was a freakishly mild one, it dawned on us after this season’s first big snow that we only had a couple of baby pull sleds and a warped plastic one in the garage. My husband, Jeff, went on a mission to find the perfect sleds. Trips to Costco, Kids City, Lowe’s and Kmart turned up nothing. The next day, though, he hit the jackpot at our local hardware store with the 39-inch Tornado and the 50-inch Blizzard, inflatable snow tubes that held the promise of an exhilarating downhill ride.

It’s been quite a few years since my childhood sledding exploits, and I had forgotten how rough the activity can get. Our first attempt at the LaPlatte Nature Park sledding hill behind the Shelburne Post Office proved treacherous and tearful for our almost 3- and 5-year-olds. On the first run, my daughter insisted we go “back to back” on the Blizzard. We picked up way too much speed, I was blinded by spraying snow and Mira ended up flying off the sled. Soon after, a sled of older boys barreled into my son, Theo, at the bottom of the hill.

Our kids are made of hardy stuff, so they toughed it out and ultimately had fun. But the experience made me yearn for a kinder, gentler sledding hill. I had heard the Old Round Church in the village of Richmond was a great sledding spot for families with younger children, so the next day we met friends there. As we pulled into the parking lot, the sight of a gradually sloping hill and several families with small kids reassured me.

The hill proved just the right speed for our group of six adults and five children, ranging in age from almost 2 to 5. The younger kids rode on parents’ laps, but the 4- and 5-year-olds proudly braved the hill on their own. A long straightaway at the base of the slope allowed ample room for coasting, so there was no worry of stopping short and flying off the sled. The ride was fast enough to get the adrenaline pumping, but didn’t elicit that terrifying, out-of-control feeling that steeper hills often do.

And the idyllic Vermont setting sweetened the deal. The Old Round Church is a 16-sided wooden meetinghouse and National Historic Landmark celebrating its 200th birthday this year. Set against the bucolic backdrop of Richmond, blanketed in a fresh coat of snow, the scene seemed straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

After close to an hour of sledding, numbness set into our toes and the younger kids started asking for the car. We retreated to our friends’ house to warm up with the one thing no sledding adventure would be complete without: hot chocolate with marshmallows.

If you go: The Old Round Church is located just past the center of town in Richmond. Follow Bridge Street across the Winooski River Bridge and the church is on your immediate left. The parking lot is a stone’s throw from the sledding hill.

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This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids.

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