Over the years, numerous local kids have graduated to the more technical sliding pursuits of luge, skeleton or bobsled. And while their accomplishments are now achieved while riding an upgraded version of the 'Flexible Flyer', their sliding careers almost certainly began on ski hill, a local golf course hill or other nearby venues. Despite advancements in ski design, snowmaking, grooming and a host of other modern conveniences, sledding remains the most popular and readily accessible of all winter entertainment.
Despite it's traditional world wide appeal, sliding is now one of the fastest growing "new" winter sports. High tech materials and engineered designs have resulted in upgraded versions of the trusty old, Flexible Flyer.
Labeled "extreme sledding" or "free sledding", the phrase was coined by participants who utilize a variety of unique sleds to ride over rough, ungroomed and often extreme terrain.
I was introduced to the pursuit several years ago, while cross country skiing on a mountain trail in Ray Brook. It was a very odd experience that took place on St. Patrick's Day
I was skiing along a well packed snowshoe trail, when out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of movement in the woods, far off the trail. At first glance, I couldn't quite make out what it was. However, it was moving downhill fast, darting though the hardwoods and careening through the balsams, and I could see at least three of them.
They were small, about the size of a large dog, but they were not bounding like animals. It almost looked as if they were rolling, or sliding.
As they got closer, it initially looked to be a leprechaun bouncing through the woods, and in hot pursuit were two other short figures. They all looked about three feet tall and they were blasting through the fresh powder, bouncing off balsams and slaloming through the saplings.