Sledding in Davos

To succeed at Switzerland's hot new sport, you have to remember how to be a kid again.

Topics: Children, Travel,

Sledding in Davos

Ten people get off the train in Davos, Switzerland. Six carry ski bags, three have snowboards. I am the only traveler whose luggage is rectangular.

It is a winsome fate, to be a nonskier in a world-class ski resort. To be in Davos without skis is like visiting L.A. without a car. People wonder what you’re up to (in my case, an assignment at the avalanche research center).

It doesn’t help that Switzerland is in the midst of a record-breaking snowstorm. The snow is coming down hard, in knuckle-sized rafts of flakes, big pillowy chunks that hit your glasses and explode into fluff. Roofs are mattressed with snow, a foot since last night. A car goes by with bits of white still clinging to its exterior, like a man who’s gone out with shaving cream on his face. (You can tell at once who has a garage and who doesn’t.)

Outside my hotel window, pedestrians steady themselves with ski poles. A pair of teenagers ski down the street and park their equipment in a rack outside the pastry shop. (They have ski racks here the way we have bicycle racks.)

I have to get out and do something in it. At the information kiosk, a woman suggests “sledging,” which I’ve never heard of. It has the sound of an arcane ice sport, like curling, which they do daily here in Davos. (Originally a Scottish sport, curling combines the joys of bowling and scrubbing floors and has gained great popularity in both Switzerland and Canada, countries with too much winter on their hands.)

Sensing my confusion, the information woman draws me a picture of what appears to be a person in a rocking chair. Then she points to the mountain behind the building. God love the Swiss! They slide down mountains in their rocking chairs! Then she points out the window at a girl who is pulling her little sister on a sled. Sledding, is what she means.

Sledding is apparently something of a trend these days. Ski resorts are building sled runs that hairpin down the sides of mountains for 1, 2, even 7 miles. I am directed down the street to the Shatzalp funicular railroad, at the base of which is a sled rental shop. A funicular is the precursor to an aerial tramway. It’s a cable car that trundles up the side of the Alps at preposterous angles, an elevator with a slouch.

The sled rental man takes my 8 francs and hands me a sled. It is simple, made from wood and painted bright red. I hold in my mittens 35 pounds of sweet, unadulterated childhood. This is going to be great.



The funicular driver loads the sleds on the back of the tram, a good dozen of them, packed together like shopping carts. I am careful to note where mine has been placed, as they all look alike. At the top, I arrive at the back of the tram to see the driver handing No. 3, my sled, over to a woman in a teal ski suit.

As I ransack my brain for the appropriate German words (“That is my” I prepare to shout), common sense alights. They’re all banged-up red sleds; who cares which one you get? To single out the one you came up with is to join the insane ranks of restaurant table-switchers and people at butcher counters who point out the exact two chicken breasts they want. The driver simply hands the sleds over to the nearest outstretched hand. Another reason to love sledding: It’s missing the gear envy of downhill skiing.

I follow the sled people up a footpath to a stone gate, the entrance to the sledging course. A crowd has accumulated, a half-dozen adults standing around, trying to remember how to be kids. A woman sits down on her sled and urges it forward as one does with one’s chair at a dinner table.

To similar effect: The sled moves several inches and stops. The rest of us ponder and stall. Finally a boy of perhaps 7 parts the forest of brightly hued legs, bends over, puts one knee on his sled, kick-starts himself with the back leg as though propelling a skateboard and disappears into the forest.

Ahhh, we all say. Of course.

The problem with this technique is that the width of my shin bone is approximately equivalent to the spaces between the wooden slats. While this neat interlocking of wood and bone serves to hold me snugly in place atop my sled, I am in a great deal of pain by the time I round the second or third bend.

To my right, a sled speeds past me. It’s another boy, this one on his belly with his shins sticking up in the air. What I failed to realize about that first boy is that once he achieved an acceptable speed, sometime around the first turn, he flung both feet out behind himself and flopped down on his stomach. As any kid knows to do.

I resolve to try this method but am held back by the sudden realization that I have no idea how to steer. The sleds of my youth had a movable piece on the front, like a ram’s horns, that could be wrenched one way or the other with your feet or hands. This one has nothing like that. I might as well be riding a rocking chair.

I have no idea what to do.

Something is amiss when you have to be told how to slide downhill on a sled. Something in the adult brain atrophies over time. We’ve spent too much time considering options, weighing pros and cons, writing proposals, holding meetings, taking lessons. We’ve forgotten how to simply sally forth and do something. So I push off again and, once I’ve built up some speed, belly-flop onto the sled.

Some sort of instinct takes over, and I find myself banking turns in spite of myself. I lean to the side and drag one mitten in the snow like a rudder. Fortunately, the learning curve is steeper than the slope, and I manage to maneuver a veritable EKG of turns without ramming my fellow sledders or launching myself over the edge of the track. I’m flying, banking turns like an airplane, grinning like a 5-year-old.

The end of the sled run feeds directly into the narrow streets of the upper fringes of Davos. I keep on sledding, past parked cars and elderly couples walking arm in arm in the snow. Nobody seems surprised to see an adult sledding down the middle of the road. Snow makes children of us all; the people of Davos know it better than most.

Former Salon columnist Mary Roach is the author most recently of "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal." Her previous books include "Stiff," "Spook" and "Packing for Mars."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>