My complicated relationship with sledging...

Sunlight bursting in ribbons through a delicate canopy of leaves, cerulean blue sky overhead and a voluptuous duvet of lush snow all around us ... so why am I screaming? Why, because I am on a sledge of course - hurtling far too fast down an icy slope and heading for a bend that I am not sure I can steer myself around. This morning - unable to resist being outside on this sunny day (most rare in Zurich these days) - Tim and I headed for the local mountain, Uetliberg, which boasts a sledge route some 3 kilometres long. Sitting on Charlie, our faithful Austrian sledge, we set off, soon grounding to halt where the snow cover had become too thin.

Paddling manically with our feet, we got him moving again only to go hurtling over a series of waves that made us rise and fall with a wallop. Other stretches were icy and sheer, only rarely interspersed with the gentle and smooth gradient that allows you to keep going without your heels dug firmly into the snow. Tim shouted at me to stop braking; I shouted at him for his daredevil nature. Further back on the slope, children were laughing (or was it crying?)... So why did we go? I have always loved sledging - the thrill of whizzing downhill, just slightly out of control. But there are certain conditions to be met: the snow needs to be deep enough, but not so deep it slows you down; the gradient needs to be gentle enough to allow you to keep moving at a consistent speed; the bends need to be long and regular, etc.

My favourite sledge to date was in Saas-Fee, along the Hannig run ( The worst? Well, there have been a few that I would class as hair-raising. But sledging is good fun, I love it really - once I have overcome my fear of speeding off the edge of the mountainside! It gives you a glow in the cheeks and a tickle in the tummy - and oh so often it can be accompanied by a lovely, warm drink in a mountain hut ... (Picture: Hannig in Saas-Fee)
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