Oklahoma City might not get the same snowfall of Aspen, Colo., but there is still fun to be had on metro slopes. At even the slightest hint of flakes, enthusiasts dig out sleds, baking sheets, cardboard boxes and plastic lids to zoom down neighborhood hills.
According to Chris Downham, owner of Flipd Action Sports, 322 W. Edmond in Edmond, it doesn't take much snow to justify trekking to the nearest slope, especially if thrill-seekers bypass a sled in favor of a snowboard.
"My wife and I live on a hill, and we are the only kids in the neighborhood to get out in full goggles, down jackets and boards," Downham said.
"It's a lot of work, but it's fun, and you can go further on a snowboard than you can go on a sled. On the hills where you would slide down and stop on a sled, you can actually transfer a couple blocks on a board just hopping over the neighbor's yards and nosepressing off the nativity scenes."
Because Oklahoma hills offer only a couple hundred feet of riding rather than the couple thousand feet of a mountain, some might want an easier option. That's why Downham sells a rubber pad that can serve as a replacement. The pad can be stuck to a snowboard, which grips the feet. A connecting bungee cord gives the rider something to hold on to for dear life.
He insisted that riding a snowboard with the rubber pad offers a safer option than a sled.
"With a sled, it's pretty much the physics, where you follow the fall line. You can't turn a saucer, you can't turn a cardboard box, but you can turn a snowboard," he said. "The difference on a snowboard is your feet are strapped in and you are in control of the board. But you still always see that guy trying to surf a sled down the hill."
Some sleds do offer control, including a line from Mountain Boy Sledworks. The Colorado company produces handmade, wooden, "heirloom" sleds made to last decades.
"We make sleds in traditional designs, like toboggans, and also in our own designs," said Brice Hoskin. "Our best-selling sleds are highly steerable flyer sleds, which change your whole concept of what you can do on a sled. You don't have to just slide down the slope out of control, like you do on a cheap plastic sled. Instead, you can swoop and turn, going exactly where you want to go, avoiding obstacles, and having a blast."
Hoskin said that, depending on the hill, it takes only a couple inches before conditions are ripe for sledding.
The sleds are also durable, but it will take some extra care to make sure they last for the long haul.
"The best approach is to treat them like fine furniture," he said. "Don't leave them outside in the sun and rain. Bring them in and wipe them down with furniture oil, if it looks like they need it."
Not so easy
The real trick of the sledding season isn't what to ride, but where. According to Lt. Jim Keesee of the Norman Police Department, finding a site isn't as easy as hiking to the nearest hill. Most public parks are off-limits, and private land hinges on the OK from the owner.
"We have problems with people going to the ramps for the interstate," Keesee said. "They are very steep hills, so people will park illegally on the roadway and the kids sled down, which is trespassing, since that is an easement to the highway. They really need spacious sloping hills with a level runoff at the end. The problem with hills along the interstate is they are steep and never level out, just lead out into the interstate."
Pulling a sled behind a vehicle is also a big no-no, but sometimes it takes more than a stern warning to ward away enthusiastic sledders. Keesee said police officers will write an occasional ticket to make sure the lesson sinks in.
"That's reckless driving," he said. "There are no cheap fines on anything anymore. Whether city or state, it's always pretty expensive, especially if you are the one paying it."