Getting Outside in Winter and Rediscovering Childhood Fun

My little cousin was up from Florida with some family a couple of weeks ago. She had never experienced snow and all she wanted from a trip to Pennsylvania in February is to make her first snow angel. I was very nervous about making this wish happen, but I was going to try my hardest to give her this adventure.

It had snowed very little in Pennsylvania to date. I figured my only shot was if the weather was cold enough then I could take her somewhere that could make snow. I figured that would at least give her some experience.

I checked out Nemacolin having snow tubed there in the past. Nope. Members or guests only now allowed on property – no riff-raff, not even former locals, allowed. No problem, I thought. Seven Springs is a short drive away.

Boy was, I wrong. Seems the local ski resort is not at all local anymore, having been purchased by Vail Resorts and everything has changed. This would send me on my adventure for this month through logistics nightmares and a Hail Mary.

I attempted to reserve tickets for tubing on the Seven Springs website. I went through every step, including having all of the waivers filled out for my party of eight. On the final confirmation screen it said that my reservation could not be completed and gave me a number to call.

So, I called. After a half hour on the phone trying to explain to the Vail Resorts customer service person that indeed I wanted to book reservations at Seven Springs Resort, I was told the reservations team could not make a reservation at Seven Springs. I said can I call them. She said no, but gave me an email – the wrong one by the way.

So, I emailed even though I knew this would be an issue because I wanted to come the next afternoon. I received an automatic reply that directed me back to the website and their AI chat feature if this was an urgent request. If you are keeping count, this will be the fourth communications touch point I will try.

I typed tubing reservation at Seven Springs in three variations into the chat box. I was expecting to get directed right back to the page on the website where I started, but it got worse, somehow. Instead I was given links to Telluride Resort in Colorado (a quite longer drive) and the Epic Pass (which doesn’t cover tubing).

It didn’t look good. Boyce Park is another option, but they were already completely booked. Lo and behold, Mother Nature seemed to want this wish to come true. Snow began falling and my cousin experienced her first snow ball fight, lighting up the adults after we showed her how to pack the snow into a sphere.

Enough of the white stuff fell that I began to plan a true adventure. I grew up in Uniontown, in the foothills of the mountains, so I began to think about where did we used to go at kids. Well, my mom would bundle us up and we would find the best hill we could. That was often the back alley with a person posted to look for cars. Sometimes we trekked a little further to one of the schools. I know some people used the local country club as the sled hill.

So, I googled “where to sled ride close to Uniontown”. The first result was Sugarloaf Hill in Ohiopyle. Growing up in the area, I oftens lived every Summer at Ohiopyle. I could not remember spending anytime in the Winter there, however.

But, this was the picture:

That looked both beautiful and promising. Now, all we needed was sleds. It was pretty late in the season, but I found a variety of sleds and snow tubes at Target after striking out at a few other stores. Within an hour, I had a new plan together. We stuffed some cold pizza left over from last night into our bellies and piled into the cars and caravanned up the Mountain.

This was how we used to do as kids. Find a hill. Trudge up it. Fly down it as fast as you can. Sugarloaf is beautiful. It is a great size hill, plenty wide and steep. We joined a birthday party that had already did the work of shaping the snow so the hill was primed for fast rides.

I will say the one thing I missed was the tow up the hill. Trudging takes on different meaning when you are an adult and have not done this sort of activity in quite some time. Still, muscle memory takes over and just for a couple hours I was back in my childhood, remembering how we could not wait for that first significant snow.

My young cousin had never been on a sled before. She decided to go down with her mother for the first run though they picked the fastest sled. They wiped out about three quarters down, tumbling into a couple of somersaults. I was worried the day would come to an end quick with that first experience.

But, up the hill she came, carrying the sled with her and leaving her mother trailing behind. Her next run was solo and she successfully completed the run gliding down to nearly the end of the flat spot at the bottom of the hill. She get up and down the hill more than the rest of us.

I got quite a few my own runs in. I did rest at the top before each time, disguising my fatigue by offering to give a push to anyone that wanted a boost. I enjoyed every second of it. Several of our party decided not to test themselves and found a cozy space to wait in the on site warming hut.

There is plenty of parking as well and it is just 10 minutes outside of downtown Ohiopyle. I also found out that you can rent snow tubes which will save you a search for sleds and offer you a comfortable and exciting trip down the hill. You still have to drag them up it, though.

Yes, I am very frustrated with the Seven Springs and would not recommend a visit, but their mistakes did lead me to a great adventure this month. Remember that there will always be a plan B. Plan Bs might not all be as convenient and beautiful as Sugarloaf Hill, but you never know. That is what makes an adventure fun.

I will definitely be back to Sugarloaf Hill. Spring is here in Pennsylvania already. On my last hike the peepers were singing loudly, welcoming the new season. Sugarloaf without snow offers mountain biking and hiking trails from it lead down to Ohiopyle’s most famous spectacle, the Falls. I think I will try it out in Summer and mark my calendar for the first snow next Winter.

Hopefully, I will have the little spark plug who inspired this adventure back for another run. She did make a fine snow angel at the top of the hill.

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