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Langlade County News

Beat winter blues on a slippery slope

February 7, 2015

It’s easier than skiing, requires little more than a slippery slope and a plastic sled costing a couple bucks or so, and assures heart-stopping, terrifying fun.

An afternoon—or evening for the really adventurous— of sledding may be the perfect way to beat the winter blues and the city’s got one of the best facilities around at its Railway Activity Park located off First Avenue.

“I think sledding is the way my kids get me to instantly be in a great mood. Instantly laugh. Instantly have fun. And instantly realize how awesome the change in seasons can be, and how awesome it is my family can enjoy a variety of opportunities, year-round, within close proximity to our home,” Sarah Repp, the city’s official commandant of sledding, said. “On a sled hill, I forget about messy rooms, the laundry, the dishes, the dinner, and the cleaning. As I am sliding down a slippery embankment, on a thin sheet of plastic, and screaming, I am enjoying the present and also a bit of catharsis.”

Repp and her favorite sledders, Claire, age nine, and four-year-old William, visited the sledding hill for some blues-killing fun and photographs earlier this week.

“I like to let my children think they have outsmarted me by convincing me to sled down the hill,” Repp said. “Truthfully, I’ve outsmarted them with the great winter adventure of sledding. There is no doubt in my mind that they will be sleeping soundly in the evening. Mom is still a little smarter...sometimes.”

The sled hill dates to the days of Administrator Dale Soumis, a gentleman who knows a thing or two about having some real adventures. He and the late Terry Hubatch, another truly fun-loving man, got together with Shane Krueger of Krueger & Steinfest to plan and build the hill, using materials left over from the construction of water retention pond near Volm Companies.

“They needed a spot to go with the dirt and Dale said he wanted to build something for the kids,” Krueger recalled. “I had been building sledding hills for my kids in my back yard, and Terry noticed it and asked me to build the city one.”

The first hill was constructed out of snow. The dirt came a year or so later.

Using skills he probably honed in a sandbox courtesy of Tonka decades ago, Krueger and his crews carved the hill using 350 dump truck loads of dirt, creating a gradual incline on the eastern side for the younger sledders and a hair-raising slope on the west.

“The slope facing the east is gentle for smaller kids, but still provides a great ride with plenty of distance,” Repp said. “The slope to the west is not for the faint of heart as you build speed down the hill.”

(An aside here: A workplace discussion over sledding today brought back loads of memories for the blues crew. Many of them, strangely enough, revolved around the proximity of barbed wire fences to most of the best rural sledding hills. That little element of danger was probably part of the attraction, but thankfully, that’s not a problem at the city’s facility)

Sledding has its roots in the Viking era, when, during the times when there was probably not much else to do but shiver, hearty Northerners developed work vehicles to transport material and/or people over icy and snowy conditions. Early sled designs included hand-pulled models as well as larger dog-or oxen-drawn designs.

They’ve come a long way since then.

Today there are many ways to fly down a hill. And the venerable Wall Street Journal even devoted a page to topic recently. Those ace reporters suggested the $179 L.L. Bean stowaway snow tub set for out-of-control fun; the $180 Mad River Rocket Killer B for backcountry powder; the $10 Mountain Boy Sledworks Ultimate Flyer for superior handling; and the top-of-the-line Molson Runner Sled for long-term velocity. That’s priced at a very reasonable (for many Wall Street Journal Readers anyway) $490.

Now that would be fun to see on that First Avenue hill.

Oh yeah. The newspaper also listed the $15 Flexible Flyer Winter Lightning for “speed on the cheap.”

Like any good commandant, Repp is always looking ahead. Future plans will provide additional runs, which equal more fun for the winter sledding enthusiast.

“The goal is to not only utilize the hill in the winter for sledding, but also tie it to BMX biking in the spring and summer,” she said. And as an added bonus “those wishing to train for races, various sporting programs can do so by sprinting up the slopes.”

Yeah right.

In addition to the First Avenue slopes, on Sunday, a mini sled hill located just north of the ice rink in Peaceful Valley Park will be ready for those wishing to slide down the chutes. Sleds are provided for participants to use during the Winter Fun & Family Wellness Day event.

Krueger said he cracks a smile every time he drives by the city’s sledding hill.

“The whole family can go there and have fun,” he said. “I even go there with my children, and yes, we all go sledding.”

Beating the Blues in Antigo is a limited-term feature examining how to enjoy the wintertime at home, without even leaving the city limits. Stay tuned because over the next few weeks, the blues crew will be biking, snowshoeing, and maybe even trying a hand at pickleball. For comments or suggestions, e-mail us at adjlisa@solarus.net.

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