On February 24, 2021

Breaking through the crust

By Merisa Sherman

We paused for a moment, as we often do, to contemplate the potential stupidity of what we were about to do. It looked gorgeous, the snow glittering in the sunlight across the descending waves of the field at our feet. You could just make out the tracks of those who had been before us, their varying depths causing a wonderful shadowy effect with the sun as it angled downward across the the sky. It’s funny, that the image of this beautiful moment atop a simple Vermont hill is so ingrained in my brain but at the moment all I could think about was what lay before me.

I looked at the sled in my hand, an extremely modern foam companion in bright red with splashy primary colors. It reeked of some young child’s sledding dream and yet it was starting to frighten me. The board was so full of energy, I could feel the metal in my arm humming with anticipation — a warning. And it’s shaped like a fish. I absolutely hate this sled, mocking me with its massively large sphere of risk.

Appropriately, it perfectly matches the enthusiasm of The Peanut, a 4-year-old friend of mine. He is bouncing around, waves of brown hair sticking out from under his knit cap and sunglasses perched precariously on his nose. And room to grow puffy coat and the sturdiest snow pants I have ever seen, complete with double front knee pads and butt. Dressed all in black, he is super stoked and ready for Sunday shred. The Peanut’s future as a hard core, tough nugget is already a given. He will be flying through air in the park and have no fear.

We are already laughing hysterically, our feet trapped beneath the crusty surface. Sure the field looked gorgeous, a fresh few inches of snow glittering in the last few hours of sunlight. But beneath that entrancing exterior lay a good two inches of frozen crust from the interesting storm earlier in the week. Walking across the snow meant holding your breath in an attempt to lighten your steps, each one a balancing act of hopeful weightlessness. It never works. Instead of a grace to match the scenery, each step is a ridiculously hilarious collapse onto your knees. The hard shell cracks and you sink in up to your thigh into the powder underneath. How could you not laugh, having no idea what would happen each step?

The walk to the top was brutal, a simple walk had now become an attempt at Everest. After a few rejected piggy back requests, we had arrived at the summit of our hill exhausted and laughing. Seriously laughing. That is until we really looked at the hill. Would our sled break through the crust, sending us flying into the air while the sled buried itself in the powder? Or, potentially, worse, would we go so uncontrollably fast down the hill we wouldn’t be able to stop at the bottom?

The Peanut, of course, noticed none of these dangers. He only saw the vibrating red of the sled and the excitement that was to come. As he settled in behind me on the sled, grabbing the two rear handles, I could feel his way overexcited energy. Would I disappoint him if I played it cautious? Or would I hurt him if it all went crazy?

Then suddenly, from down below I heard his mom yell loudly, “Send it!”.

So we dropped in for the ride of our lives! Instead of breaking through, we reached some kind of terminal velocity as we floated down the three inches of glitter snow. All I could hear was the screaming coming from me combined with the childish laughter coming out of The Peanut. Half way down the hill, our sled hydroplaned on the snow and we did a complete 360 degree spin, completely out of control and absolutely loving it.

Finally, we fell off the sled and broke into the shell below. The Peanut and I looked at each other and he fell backward laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach in. I looked at our torpedo danger sled and reluctantly smiled. As much as I still hate this sled, it’s not so bad. Especially when The Peanut is screaming with pure joy right behind you. Maybe doing something a little stupid was just what I needed. I still cannot stop laughing. And I cannot wait to do it again.

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