Joyful time of year combines friends, family and snowmachining fun
My favorite month of the year is December. Christmas music is playing and beautiful decorations light up the dark days. Hibernation begins to set in, as we move more slowly and spend time snuggled up in blankets trying to warm up from the cold. My family has many traditions during this month, which begin with taking photos for our Christmas cards. This has proven to be a difficult task over the
years. In my mind the perfect photo included matching holiday outfits, the perfect scenery and warm smiles from adoring children. What we often produced was a group photo in which my husband and I were smiling surrounded by what seemed to be unhappy hostages.
On Christmas Eve, Grandpa strings lights on the flatbed trailer and hooks it up to his four-wheeler. Bundles of hay are placed all around and we have an Alaskan-made sleigh ride. We then load up the kids and any family members who are visiting and ride around to each of our neighbor’s homes singing carols and delivering cookies. The caroling is off key and we really only know a few songs, but it is a fun way to share the Christmas spirit. I have to laugh when I think of one of our new neighbors who was obviously home but was not going to answer the door. Maybe they thought they were being robbed by Santa’s elves or just had an aversion to very poor singing. My persistent niece just stayed on the porch pushing the doorbell until finally one of the teenage occupants cracked the door open. Our less-than-heavenly singing began and slowly a smile spread across his face. His family joined him in the doorway and at least for a few minutes there really was “peace on earth.”
With gifts given and meals eaten, it is time to head up to the cabin for some riding and relaxation. This past year my son Cooper brought his girlfriend and we spent a few days together. Maddie had never been on a snowmachine and was excited to try out this new adventure. Taking “newbies” out and introducing them to sledding is a favorite pasttime of ours and we had learned from previous mistakes a few of the things that needed to happen to insure a positive experience. Prior to heading out, we had Maddie try on helmets to make sure that the one that was used fit and was comfortable. We emphasized layering and then had her try on gear, making sure the fit was good and the gear would keep her warm. A boot discussion followed along with talk of the importance of moisture-wicking socks and the need for gloves/mittens and backups of these items.
We geared up and packed the sled with the food and essentials we would need for the time at the cabin. A quick tutorial was given regarding the throttle, brake and hand signals to use for communication. A last check around the sleds and we headed out to the trail. The trail ride was about 20 minutes and then opened up to a meadow with fresh snow. Cooper had already headed into the powder to pull a few donuts and determine how deep it was. He offered his sled to Maddie and after trying it out she decided she liked the wide track she had been riding, preferring its stability.
When taking out new riders, I have found it important to listen to what makes them comfortable. Experienced riders can find it difficult to remember when they were learning and each new rider progresses at a different rate. As a family of snow snobs, it can also be difficult to ride in conditions that don’t seem optimal. Keep in mind less snow may be perfect for a new rider to learn simple maneuvers.
With many “stucks” and a few tears, at the end of the three days Maddie was having a great time and getting more comfortable with the sled. Days were spent in the snow and nights were spent eating plenty of comfort food and playing endless games of UNO and Phase 10. Christmas lights glowed from the tree in front of the cabin and soft snow began to fall outside.
The holiday season is again fast approaching and having converted Maddie, she is already checking the weather forecast and planning time off work so that we can all return to the woods. I believe that the best gifts given are those that come from the heart. As a family that loves sledding, introducing new riders comes naturally. If the effort and time is put into making sure a new rider is wearing good gear, riding a sled that fits, and is encouraged to progress at their own pace. This will be a gift that keeps on giving long into the future.