Thursday, May 22, 2008

Old Main Hill Sledding


During the winter months, Northern Utah gets quite dumped on with snow. The skiing is fabu, there is sledding, there is snowboarding and tubing...there are also bored Utah state college students with a hill and a matress.

One such winter of 1994 a group of roommates and friends from Valley View and Mountain View Dorms decided to take a little study break and head on over to Old Main Hill on campus. Old Main Hill is the main hill where the "Old Main" building is. The picture looks pretty tame, but in actuality it is a rather broad, sloping hill that steepens and is ended by a concrete wall that drops down a few feet to the sidewalk and onto the road. When I went to school there, they used to put hay bales in front of the wall to soften the blow and to keep people from hurting themselves. This particular night the hay bales were covered in snow and made almost a little ramp over the concrete wall. Plus they were frozen, so they were just as rock hard as the concrete wall themselves.

We headed out with little plastic roll up sleds from Smiths and cardboard boxes that we salvaged from the recycling room. We trudged over to Old Main to discover we were not the only ones with the ideas to go sledding. There had been so much snow, we actually had classes cancelled. Out in Utah there has to be practically apocalyptic proportions of snow for people to even blink. I will tell you after this one particular snowfall I needed thigh high boots.

So we are sledding and having a great time, pretty tame. the snow had been packed down, the sledding was fun. Then the mattress kings showed up. This was a group of young men who lived off campus who had this old ratty full sized mattress that they brought out for special sledding occasions. They stood at the top declaring themselves King of the hill and 4 of them jumped on the bed and sped down Old Main Hill and bringing themselves to a halt right before hitting the wall at the bottom. They dragged their "sled" back up and asked if anyone wanted to go for a ride. I think it was My roommate,"Zab" and I who decided to have a go at it. (Zab was short for Elizabeth. When we first met she said "my name is elizabeth. Dont call me Liz, dont call me beth" so I said "can I call you zab?" It stuck. Anyhoo....) Like I said I THINK it was Zab, it may have been Diane or Amy. i honestly cant remember. So for all intents and purposes of this story, I shall keep the character Zab.


She and I piled on with the 3 mattress kings and another person. We were given a shove to get started.
The mattress slowly started to creep down the hill,then hit it's stride about 1/3 of the way down. Since there were 6 of us on the mattress, we were weighed down pretty heavy and this sled was using our weight as some sort of momentum. We were going faster and faster and faster, and I could see the brick wall was getting closer and closer. The kings were trying to stick their heels into the ground to get the juggernaut slowed down, but the hill just mocked our despair and urged our out of control vehicle to go even faster. Mattress King #1 started yelling "Oh no! Oh no! Oh No!" As his oh-nos got more and more frantic, his voice got higher and higher pitched and his words faster and faster, almost like our matress hurtling down the hill to our inevitable spleen ruptures and concussions.
Mattress King #2 started throwing out cuss words as he continued to try and dig the heel of his cowboy boot into the iced down path that we were taking. (i swear by the end of that trip the heel of his cowboy boot had been filed down into some sort of deformed shape)
Mattress King #3 just sat there, paralyzed with fear and shock. He was gibbering some sort of last words, praying in tongues or possibly his life was flashing before his eyes. He was pretty useless, crying for his mommy and apologizing for all his wrong-doings, bargaining with God to spare his life.
Finally Zab in her wisdom starts yelling "Bail! Bail! Bail" She is smacking everyone, starling them out of their last moments here on earth. "Bail! Bail! Bail!"

The other guest on our trip closed his eyes and fell over sideways, falling off the mattress like a water skiier hitting the water at 90 miles an hour, skittering over the surface to come to his final resting place. Zab pushed The paralyzed matress king off his perch, and he too went flying off bouncing off the ice as we continued to hurtle down the hill at breakneck speed.. She and I each grabbed a remaining matress king by the arms, threw them off and then rolled off, sliding, rolling, bumping down the rest of the hill.(Kind of like Wesley in The Princess Bride..."Aaaaaaassssssss yoooooouuuuuu wiiiiiiissssshhhhh!" )

I got kicked in the head and elbowed in the eye and hit my jaw on the packed snow and ice. We came to rest almost nose to nose at the wall of frozen hay bales. We got up, took a head count and realized we were all still alive, all accounted for with only a few scrapes and bruises. As we shook ourselves off and helped the three fallen kings, we realized the matress was nowhere in sight. It had hit the wall, flipped upright and dumped itself on the street below.
People were cheering and "I'm next!" and "That was awesome!"
The entire length of the ride: 12 seconds. It seemed like forever.
We helped the kings retrieve the matress and carry it back up Old Main on our shoulders, like warriors returning to the village with our spoils over our heads.

Mattress Kings regained their composure at the top of the hill and the rest of the night limited the number of people on the matress to 4 at a time. I cant tell you how many times I went Matress sledding that night, but every time I go sledding now(you know in the south where we just get a ton of snow) I think of the mattress kings and I can hear zab screaming in my ear "Bail! Bail! Bail!"

This picture was from the Utah statesman . Sledding down the Old main Hill has been a tradition since the University opened in 1888. I miss it sometimes.



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