Mother Nature brought an unusual gift to the Triangle on Tuesday: steep hills covered in mounds of slick snow.
From Raleigh to Chapel Hill, big and little kids dusted off sleds long since buried in garages and sheds. They powered down their Gameboys and Wiis to test their balance and nerve on real snow-covered courses.
They trudged to nearby parks or hitched rides with a neighborhood dad itching to relive childhood.
"It took no convincing," said David Burdett of Raleigh, who hauled his sons Cameron and Justin and their two friends to sled at Shelley Lake in North Raleigh. "I grew up in Ohio, so I've always felt the boys got cheated out of snow."
As winter weather goes, it doesn't get much better than Tuesday, particularly if you didn't have to drive anywhere. No bone-chilling, treacherous ice, just gobs of fluffy goodness. It was wet enough to pack, slippery enough to slide.
For many Triangle tykes, it was their first sledding experience. Burdett's boys have been skiing before, and they've slid down steep, grassy hills in Atlanta. But for Cameron, 8, and Justin, 10, this was their first serendipitous snow adventure. Their father hunted down a sledding disk he bought years ago, hoping this would finally be the year they'd get to break it in.
Burdett's crew hovered at the top of Shelley Lake's hill for several minutes, watching enough sledders arrive safely at the bottom to be convinced they could, too. Troy Sturdivant, 10, took the most persuading. Even though his sled had brakes he could yank if he ran into trouble, he was still shaking off a sledding collision from a storm in 2003. Finally, Troy let loose, flying down the hill to meet his friend Parker Davison, 10. At the bottom, Troy yanked the brakes and tipped to the side.
The morning brought driving snow that smeared glasses and goggles of the best-outfitted. Novices struggled to steer their rides, knocking down friends and scooping snow into their collars.
Abbey Lundergan, 7, crossed paths with a trash can at Cary's Bond Park.
Her father, Pat Lundergan, saw it coming.
"Abbey! Watch out for the trash can!" he yelled.
Others tempted fate with their adventures. At Shelley Lake, boys stacked seven high on sleds, tumbling off one at a time as they sailed down the hill. Others improvised: Cameron Burdett brought his fair-weather friend, a plastic innertube he typically rides in rivers during summer.
Jesse Dudas, 25, has tried all variety of snow vessels. He has slid down snow-covered hills in canoes, a refrigerator box and every make and brand of sled. For several years, Dudas had been saving up his latest ride for a day like Tuesday: a salvaged truck bedliner.
He rounded up his younger siblings and some cousins to try it out at Shelley Lake. Ten or so piled in and recruited some men to push. On one run, they nearly slid into Shelley Lake; another ended with a crash into a concrete sewer, though no injuries.
Despite the lack of snow in recent years, the 11-year-old Campos twins, Vanessa and Valeria, of Chapel Hill were prepared: a sled each and snow boots.
"We just kind of prepare because we don't know when we're going to have it or how much we're going to have," their father, Jose Campos, said.
Despite her gear, Vanessa kept tumbling Tuesday while sledding at Chapel Hill Community Park. Still, undeterred, she tried more and more tricks. She stood on her sled, facing the wrong way, but ended up face-down in the snow. She switched to the other side of the hill and crouched like a snowboarder. Again, she tumbled headfirst into the snow.
"I was going good until I fell," Vanessa said to her father.
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