It was a really, weird sight, and it sure appeared they were having great fun. I immediately skied off the trail to catch up with them, but it wasn't easy. They were really moving!
The group, all hailing from Vermont, were riding a new type of sled known as a Mad River Rocket. The seven pound sleds were made of vacuum-molded polyurethane and they had grooves in the bottom to permit easy turning.
The sled had a built in knee strap and a foam cushion to permit riders to kneel comfortably. It looked like a winter version of the popular knee-boards/wakeboards, that are commonly used on the lake during the summer.
The leader of the pack, although dressed entirely in green, was not actually a leprechaun. He was a six foot, two inch tall, "free-sledder". He explained the group had been traveling to the Adirondacks all winter to snowshoe up and sled down numerous local peaks.
The sleds are steered by leaning; dragging a hand as a rudder, or even tree grabbing a tree to maneuver down the steep slopes. As I watched them, the group moved through the forest cover with ease.
"We go where skiers can't!", one guy offered, "Because at only three feet tall, kneeling, we're usually below the tree limbs. It's neat to grab a sapling and sling around it for a turn. Skiers would get their poles all tangled up doing that."
He mentioned another advantage that I hadn't considered, explaining, "We don't fall down, we just tip over!"
I watched as the group slid off into the distance. I met up with them later in the trailhead parking lot. With snowshoes on their feet, tiny sleds strapped to their packs, and helmets on their heads, they looked like a lost pod of web-footed turtles. They all sported wide smiles and explained they had snowshoed to the summits of many local peaks, including Mt. Marcy. However, they stated a preference for riding off trail, especially in the spring when the crust provides plenty of support.