Random Observation/Comment #173: I’ve always thought sledding (or “sledging,” as they call it with “proper English”) was a childish thing similar to tubing, or represented by those inflatable boxing gloves you fit around your arms in the swimming pool. What I forgot was the level of creativity us more mature people apply to make these normal childhood pastimes much more exciting and hardcore. Add a splash (or 8 splashes) of alcohol and a dash of forbidden ski trails and you get this delicious blend of danger and exhilaration. The jagermeister keeps you warm, while the vertical drop into those powder sections gives fun a completely new meaning (probably much more fun when trashed).
If you’re traveling in Interlaken on a tight budget (like me and everyone else) and you still want to have a fun time on the side of the mountain, I would suggest hitting the slopes with sleds. The full day rental of the sleds and lift tickets is only 37CHF (with 10CHF for the tram tickets to that section of the mountain). As a photograph-enthusiast, I feel that sledging allows for many more stops and some more opportune moments to just enjoy the scenery. While skiing, there was so many times where I just sped down and ignored beautiful sections. The adrenaline overtook my desires to capture the scenery because to me, skiing was more about the technique and the freedom. In the same way pictures try to capture a still life moment of a video, the videos would fall short in completing the extra dimensions of representing skiing. However, sledging brings a different type of thrill. Yes, there are definitely times where I thought I was going to die because I had no control of my steering or my speed, but there are purposeful walking-sections where the scenery is just begging for a photographer. It’s obviously no comparison to the level of adrenaline involved in skiing, but there is a different connection with the overall experience of “being one with the mountain.”
I never thought that I would enjoy sledging so much because I had always experienced it on small driveways or down little hills where I would need to walk for 30 minutes just to get those few minutes of joy. Sledging on the Swiss Alps, on the other hand, is extreme. The gondola ride up to the top took 30 minutes and coming down as quickly as possible from the top of the mountain took 2 hours. The scenic pauses were replaced with pictures, while the sharp turns made me feel like a rockstar drifter.
If you ever sled, you’ll develop your own techniques of steering, but for the most part, you can just hang on to the bottom and keep your feet up. The desire to turn will make you naturally shift your weight and all should be fine. Besides, crashing into the side was the easiest way of stopping and it was completely painless. The tracks were packed and groomed, but I could never tell where the track ended and the powdered snow began. Everyone has that experience of thinking that a path existed and then, a few seconds later, finding themselves waist deep in snow with the sled halfway down the mountain. Some of the best laughs I’ve had were a result from the ridiculous falls off the trail. It is impossible to take shortcuts, but always fun to try. I wore jeans both times, and by the end, the denim was completely frozen and I had snow up and down my calves from trying to stop with my heels.
Later, I learned that stopping is a peaceful eventuality, and the moments should be lived with the thoughts of “holy crap, holy crap, holy crap, Where are the brakes?” Even though these same thoughts pass through your mind while you’re on this run, the reaction of slowing down or staying in more control is a fleeting thought when the falls are sometimes more fun than the high velocity on the way down. The thought of possible freak-decapitation from a crazy sled accident still enters your mind as an instinct and pure fear of this pain, but almost directly after every fall, I immediately thought, “That was Awesome! Did you see those flips I did?”
It would be impossible for me to suggest that someone who has the opportunity to ski or snowboard to go sledging instead, but if a traveler wanted to save a lot of money, take pictures, and still have a great time with a group of friends; sledging is your answer. I went twice with completely different conditions and it was worth it both times. The first day, the low visibility with the constant snowfall made me think of the ideal winter wonderland. The second day, the clear skies that just opened the entire side of the mountain made me think everything was a painting. The view was so beautiful that it was unreal. It’s funny that real life reminded me of a picture.
Sledging is definitely a group activity. Skiing could be enjoyed with your own little world of training and peacefulness, but the fun with sledging is this mix of falling, and then seeing someone fall when you’re waiting for them. It’s almost like seeing a mime get kicked in the groin. They tumble and you automatically laugh because you know that they are most probably fine (mimes aren’t real people). Skiing falls, on the other hand, are a little more dangerous and could bring some worried emotions a split second before they get up again. In this case, everything is funny because you can unknowingly veer off track for a small segment and then collapse into the snow.
~See Lemons Sledging
We Americans are much less sophisticated. We just inner tubes from truck tires. Makes for a much lighter uphill hike.