ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, JAN. 11 - In this photo taken on Dec. 28, 2014, Cassidy Saunders, front, and Corey DiRutigliano get to the bottom of the hill covered in snow during a sledding trip to Ester Hill in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Picking the right hill and to a lesser extent the right sled, makes the difference in sledding. (AP Photo/ Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Friedman)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, JAN. 11 - In this photo taken on Dec. 28, 2014, Cassidy Saunders, front, and Corey DiRutigliano get to the bottom of the hill covered in snow during a sledding trip to Ester Hill in Fairbanks, Alaska. Picking the right hill and to a lesser extent the right sled, makes the difference in sledding. (AP Photo/ Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Friedman)

Cheap thrills: backwoods sledding

FAIRBANKS — A cheap plastic sled, some fresh snow and gravity make for refreshingly simple fun.

Sledding is a classic family-friendly activity, but it was fun too for our group of friends, most of us in our 30s, who recently gathered at a power line trail in the Ester area.

The simplicity is probably the best part. Too many winter sports involve complicated gear or difficult technique. Anyone can tumble down a hill.

That said, picking the right hill and to a lesser extent the right sled, makes a difference. My previous Fairbanks sledding experience was at the ice sheet known as the University of Alaska Fairbanks sledding hill. When I went there last year, a hard landing on an ice lump tore a piece of plastic off my sled.

The Ester hill we used on a recent Sunday sloped just enough to feel blissfully out of control, but was gradual and powdery enough that our party of 13 people and five dogs only broke one plastic sled in few hours on the slope.

It took about three minutes to ride down — less for those who kept in control down the trail. I never managed that and tended to careen off the side into the powder.

My friends Molly Rettig and Josh Kunz get credit for picking the slope. Josh has been scoping out possible hills for a week. The one he picked was perfect enough and quiet enough that he made me promise to not indicate the exact location in this write-up.

I bought a new $20 Fred Meyer sled for the occasion, a single curved sheet of plastic-lined-foam with four rubber handles. It worked OK, although my feet tended to slip off the front as I picked up speed. The deeper plastic toboggan-style sleds worked best among the people in our party.

After three or four runs, we ended the day by gliding down a snowmachine trail to Ester’s Golden Eagle Saloon. It was a mix of walking and sledding because the path wasn’t as fast as the power line trail, but it felt fun to use a plastic toy to get from point A to point B and to park our sleds next to the snowmachines at the bar.

Over beers and burgers, we planned our next trip. Rumor has it Ester Dome is a good sled ride.

More in Life

This 1940s-era image is one of few early photographs of Cliff House, which once stood near the head of Tustumena Lake. (Photo courtesy of the Secora Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 1

Here, then, is the story of Cliff House, as least as I know it now.

File
Minister’s Message: What’s in a name?

The Scriptures advise, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Visitors put on personal protective equipment before an artist talk by Dr. Sami Ali' at the Jan. 7, 2022, First Friday opening of her exhibit, "The Mind of a Healthcare Worker During the COVID-19 Pandemic," at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
ER doctor’s paintings follow passage of pandemic

Dr. Sami Ali made 2019 resolution to paint every day — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Almond flour adds a nuttiness to this carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A ‘perfect day’ cake

Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting make for a truly delicious day off

File
Minister’s Message: A prayer pulled from the ashes

“In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.”

A copy of “The Year of Magical Thinking” by author Joan Didion is displayed on an e-reader. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking” is a timely study on grief

‘The last week of 2021 felt like a good time to pick up one of her books.’

Megan Pacer / Homer News
Artist Asia Freeman, third from left, speaks to visitors on Nov. 1, 2019, at a First Friday art exhibit opening at Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer.
Freeman wins Governor’s Arts Humanities Award

Bunnell Street Arts Center artistic director is one of nine honored.

Zirrus VanDevere’s pieces are displayed at the Kenai Art Center on Jan. 4, 2022. (Courtesy Alex Rydlinski)
A journey of healing

VanDevere mixes shape, color and dimension in emotional show

Traditional ingredients like kimchi, ramen and tofu are mixed with American comfort food Spam in this hearty Korean stew. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Warm up with army base stew

American soldiers introduced local cooks to some American staple ingredients of the time: Spam and hotdogs.

File
Peninsula Crime: Bad men … and dumb ones — Part 2

Here, in Part Two and gleaned from local newspapers, are a few examples of the dim and the dumb.

File
Minister’s Message: What if Christ had not been born?

It is now time to look at the work and life of Jesus Christ.

Homemade masa makes the base of these Mexican gorditas. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tasty trial and error

Homemade gorditas present new cooking challenge.