On December 28, 2022

When ice and snow were fun!

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Winter is not the favorite season for most seniors! We don’t like to walk around wondering if there is black ice underfoot. Nor do we like driving on it. Hearing that a snow storm is coming makes us want to hunker down and stay inside. Whatever happened to our childhood feelings that snow was fun to slide on and ice was fun to skate on? Our view of these things didn’t change overnight. It was a process.

Let’s take a look at how snow and ice are viewed from the early years through today.

In the mid 1940s the first snow adventure for me and three other little tykes in my neighborhood was when our mothers bundled us up and put each of us in our Santa-like sleighs. They pushed us around and we loved every minute of it! The fact that the Rutland City streets were snow covered means that they must not have been plowed as quickly back then as they are today. Getting outside was probably a nice change of pace for our mothers who were stay-at-home moms. I still have my sleigh and thanks to my handy husband, Peter, it has been fixed up and is now a decorative part of a garden area. It’s filled with plants from spring until fall.

Being able to navigate the snow on our own happened in the 1950s. We took our Flexible Flyer sleds and headed to a hill that started on Howard Avenue and ended just short of Easterly Avenue. The sled had a rope to pull it along and you could steer it with either your hands or your feet. You would pick up some serious speed when a coating of ice was on the hill.

A round metal coaster for sliding down hills became popular in that decade. They were silver in color. You crossed your legs underneath you, held onto two straps and down the hill you went! There was no device for steering. The only way to stop if you got going too fast was to tip over. It was a wild ride for sure!

We didn’t avoid ice back in the day. We went looking for it … to skate on, of course. Rutland had public skating at Rotary, White’s and Meadow Street. Their neighborhood locations meant that kids didn’t have to go far to find a place to skate with friends. Most of us we went in groups and walked to the closest rink.

In my neighborhood we were lucky enough to have a skating rink that the Goodrich family maintained for us. They flooded their side yard and had lights for night skating. We were all welcome to use the rink and it was filled with kids.

The excitement of hopping on a sled to enjoy the snow was replaced by strapping our feet into a pair of skis as we got older. We were very lucky to have a great place to learn to ski right here in the city – the Rutland Country Club. Lessons were available and a rope tow got us to the top of a 525-foot hill. Even Olympian Suzy Chaffee skied at the Country Club in her younger days. Kids will remember that the tow rope wore holes in our mittens.

As we got older most of us went to Pico as we moved on to the next stage of skiing. We were ready for T-bars and chair lifts. Ski lessons were available on Sunday afternoons. Parents liked the idea that all trails ended up in one area. Snow was exciting in a different way as we got older. For most of us ice skating stopped being part in our lives once our high school days were over.

Age caught up with some of us when we reached our 50s and 60s. Knees and hips weren’t like they used to be. Some of us replaced downhill skis with cross-county skis. It was a different world to schuss through the woods enjoying nature as we went along. For those of us who had spent many years on crowded slopes there was a sense of peace in the woods.

But what happens if being on skis of any kind no longer works for you? Do you have to stop “playing in the snow?” Absolutely not! There is yet another way to enjoy the snow. Snowshoes are the answer! Using poles as you snowshoe makes the trek easier on aging bodies and you get great exercise. That is the way I enjoy the snow these days.

Would I consider venturing onto the ice in a pair of skates? No way! These days I only venture onto the ice when I have grippers on my boots. As I carefully move along I am counting the days until the grass is green and summer shoes are back on my feet.

You may not be able to avoid driving on snow and ice but you can still have fun in the snow. Whether you opt to go snowshoeing or just take a walk you will feel better after getting some fresh air and exercise. But let’s avoid the ice. It’s just not senior friendly.

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