I took a trip with the family to Flagstaff after Christmas last weekend. It was a little like going back in time for me, about 60 years to be precise.
Enough snow on the ground to slide and temperatures in the morning hovering around zero are things I haven’t experienced much since coming to Arizona almost 40 years ago.
As a kid, I grew up in the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania where there were plenty of hills that, when covered with snow, were perfect for the toboggans, sleds and even snowboards.
My siblings and I had a couple of Flexible Flyer sleds, and on nearby hills there were roads cut into the oil fields that were cleaned down to a nice packed, smooth base. On the relatively steep hills those Flexible Flyers could pick up plenty of speed. I’m sure it wasn’t, but to a kid about nine or 10, it was akin to luge speeds on an Olympic track.
I also got up one Christmas morning and found the first snowboard I had ever seen. I don’t recall knowing about them to even ask for one. It was primitive by today’s boards, for sure. It was about three feet long, tapered and turned up on one end. As I recall it was a manufactured board material similar to particleboard and covered with a laminate like Formica. There was a rope with a loop through the tapered end so you could hang on. Staple-like protrusions stuck up as a place to grip the feet.
At that time most of my Christmas break from school was spent outdoors either sliding or skating. That year I spent most of my time on the board, piling snow to build a jump and got to the point I could slide off the jump and land on my feet without hanging onto the rope.
Flagstaff is a city that is prepared for greenhorn snow players. Of course there are skiers of all levels who make their way up to Snowbowl. However, many “reverse snowbirds” crowded the roads anywhere they could get off into the piled snow along the berm. Several drove their vehicles off into drifts where they often had to be pulled out. People left the cars and gathered in the nearby woods throwing snowballs and building snowmen, and where even a gentle slope provided a place to slide.
Of course stores like Walmart, Target and some outdoor stores with plenty of gear do a good business supplying those who came unprepared, but on a snowy weekend in Flagstaff you also find gas stations with signs out selling “hats, gloves and sleds” for those who headed north without.
The campus at NAU is a place with a lot of slopes of varying degrees and with students gone for the holidays, maybe hundreds used these slopes for sliding. Including me and my grandsons, something I haven’t experienced in decades.