The Day I Became The Sledding Champion Of The World

The Day I Became The Sledding Champion Of The World

By |2016-07-01T15:17:51-04:00December 30th, 2013|France, Perspectives|32 Comments

Sledding Champion of the World

I positioned myself, grabbed hold of the handles, tucked in my legs and asked for a push. And off I went…

While I’d like to say that I zooomed down the hill on my sled at maximum speed, slicing and dicing my way through the snow, hitting jumps and gliding through the air with such beauty and grace and consequently impressing everyone around me, the actual version involved a great deal of unplanned twisting and turning, a bizarre amount of time spent moving backwards, flying through the air in such a painfully clumsy mess, nearly taking out several small children along the way and eventually crashing into, and breaking, a mesh fence or two.

If there’s one thing I told my friends before arriving in Annecy, France for New Years was that I would not be partaking in any outdoor activities. After all, cold weather is not my friend and I truly cannot stand to be outside for more than a few minutes when it is less than 0C/32F.

Of course, on my second day here, after a few glasses of wine and some heavy nagging from my friends, I somehow ended up agreeing to go sledding. Before I knew it, I was in a car that was driving over the Forclaz Pass in the French Alps, climbing higher and higher towards the snow. My friends were all energetically chatting away during that ride, completely prepared with their snow pants and waterproof boots, with their ultra-warm gloves and heavily-insulated jackets. And there was I, horrified at spending time outside, stuck wearing my 10-year old, worn-out sweat pants, the most non-waterproof hiking shoes on the planet, and a ‘winter’ jacket I picked up in H&M for $30 bucks and that protects me from the cold as much as wrapping myself up in lettuce would protect me.

Nonetheless, I soon found myself standing at the top of a hill, fully dreading the fact that I would soon have to get on a sled. And before I knew it, I was indeed on a sled, slowly accelerating as I immediately veered far away from my intended path.

Yes, I crashed. Yes, I rolled through the snow. Yes, ice went into my pants and soaked my rear end. And yes, I was frozen like never before as I laid sprawled out at the bottom of the hill.

Oh, and yes, I forgot to mention that I absolutely loved it all. I loved it just as much as I did when I would go sledding as a kid on Chemung Hill, a good-sized hill located right behind the elementary school I attended. I loved this sledding session so much in fact, that I kept going down that hill, and the several other hills we visited yesterday, over and over again, despite the cold, despite my wet pants (from the snow!!), despite icicles hanging from my nose and despite the sub-freezing temperature of the air.

My friends and I had a genuine blast as we continued to crash and roll, to set speed records (at least in our own minds), to fly through the air, to compete with each other, and to be the only adults on sleds for miles around, screaming and laughing the entire time. Each time I finished a ‘run’ down the hill, I would stand up and give a few high fives, pump my fist in the air and wave to my imaginary fans, all while feeling as if I was indeed the sledding champion of the world.

Sledding in Annecy, France

Sledding Champion of the World

And amazingly, I now shake my head at the idea that I would have missed out on all this good craziness, and being champion of the world, had I stuck to my original plan of never going outside. What a crappy trip to France that would have been. Lesson learned.

What lesson?

Sometimes you just need to try things you don’t think you would enjoy. You might be surprised.

We all have our set ways, we all have our own ‘rules’, our own likes and dislikes as we move through life. But we owe it to ourselves to evaluate how we live from time to time. Just because I haven’t liked cold weather for the past ten years doesn’t mean that I should avoid it forever. We all change and what we once did not enjoy, or what we once might have thought uninteresting or even unbearable, might one day prove to be quite the opposite. And even if we discover that we still don’t enjoy something, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun or enjoy certain aspects of it in the process.

It’s not as if this one sledding experience has convinced me to move to the Alps during winter and then hop down to the Andes Mountains in May each year in order to catch another season of pure coldness. I’m still looking forward to the next time I’ll be on a white sand beach, soaking up the sun, as much as I was the day before I went sledding.

However, by forcing myself to do something I wouldn’t ordinarily do, I managed to have an experience that proved to be immensely enjoyable and memorable, an experience that I now would not have wanted to miss out on at all. And as a result, I think I’ll start doing things I typically don’t enjoy more often. I just might discover that I’ve changed.

Seems like a good lesson to learn on this second-to-last day of the year.

Happy New Year!!

Is there something you usually would never do that you might want to try again? Have you been in a similar situation?

The Travel Email - SIGN UP!

New blog posts, updates from around the world and endless inspiration to help you achieve your own travel goals. Sent once per week.


  1. […] in a recent post, you might actually discover that you do enjoy something or someplace you never thought you’d like. The only way to find out is to do things and travel to places that you normally wouldn’t! It […]

  2. Andrew January 12, 2014 at 1:30 am - Reply

    So much fun! Glad you enjoyed it Earl. Sometimes you need to get messy/dirty/wet/cold to have a little fun.

  3. Vagabond Tim January 10, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl,

    I’ll see your sledding on snow and raise you sledding on sand

    Growing up in the frozen wasteland that is Canada I can attest to the wonderment of hurtling helplessly down a snow covered landscape after a few to many drinks, but I wonder if you have been snowboarding or skiing as snow can and will rip your skin to sheds at -30, especially if you are wearing only lettuce.

    • Wandering Earl January 11, 2014 at 5:31 am - Reply

      Hey Tim – I have been skiing once in my life and that was plenty for me. I did go volcano boarding in Nicaragua though and that certainly did rip my skin to shreds as my legs and arms were sliced up and bleeding quite badly after that experience. Sandboarding seems like a close cousin of the volcano boarding!

  4. Andrei January 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    If google translate is right and parsnip is păstârnac you can find it for sure in almost any grocery or Mega image shop. Although I don’t know if you can find them in winter.

  5. Larry January 10, 2014 at 10:43 am - Reply

    The scenery of the mountains of France makes for an amazing setting for sledding … I would have loved to have been there … as for your question, I need to put myself out of my comfort zone in 2014 … thanks for the challenge bro!

  6. Banker in the Sun January 10, 2014 at 4:52 am - Reply

    I’m am 100% positively sure that I will not enjoy kayaking. I’m slightly terrified of tipping over, even though I can swim. So, in true Wandering Earl fashion, this Sunday I will be going kayaking.

    • Wandering Earl January 10, 2014 at 5:46 am - Reply

      @Banker in the Sun – Do let us know how it goes and I’m sure that even if you tip over, you’re going to come back with some positive stories!!

  7. David DiGregorio January 8, 2014 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    I think you are ready for a ride on a bobsled!

  8. Melissa @ Suitcase and Heels January 3, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Absolutely! My stomach twisted into knots at the thought of partaking in noraebang while in South Korea because I can’t sing. I experience a rather high level of anxiety at the thought of singing in front of people. And yet, I decided to give it a go (after a few Hite outside the 7-11) and to my surprise I really enjoyed it. Sure, I still can’t sing very well but the beauty is, no one cares. You’re just there to have fun, not put off a concert. I would totally do it again.

  9. Charli | Wanderlusters January 2, 2014 at 4:55 am - Reply

    What fun! Sledging evokes childhood memories of Christmas time spent outside in the frozen snow. We’ve just spent our 3rd festive season away from home and I miss taking to a sledge and hitting the hills near my parents house. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Marie January 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I went sledding on december 20th with all of my coworkers for our christmas party. I hadn’t done this in 6 years and last time wasn’t exactly memorable except for a brief descent where I ended up with a bleeding nose midway through it. I was pleasantly suprised to find myself giggling and bouncing like an excited kid (my friends tell me I looked high). I get like that when I’m having fun…or on a sugar rush.

    I want to try getting drunk…for the first time… because I have never been and it seems like one of those life experiences that are required. And also to see of I would get the sugar-rush-kid/high-on-drugs thing or the grumpy/everybody-is-incredibly-STUPID feeling I get when I haven’t slept.

  11. Ruann Weidemann January 1, 2014 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Great post man!

    “…that protects me from the cold as much as wrapping myself up in lettuce would protect me.”

    [laughs] Classic!

    It’s true what you say. We so often miss out on experiences due to preconceived ideas or previous experiences. When we choose to actually do something that we didn’t think we’d like, we usually get to know ourselves a little better, and often have a hell of a time doing it.

    I used to dislike people [laughs], until I contemplated life with a villager in rural Africa, and shared perspectives on love with a prostitute in Argentina. Nowadays I really enjoy talking to random people and to get to know the stories behind faces.

    Happy new year Earl!

  12. Sara December 31, 2013 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Nice to hear that you had fun in the snow! I grew up in northern Sweden, so I know everything about turning into a child every time the sledge comes out.

    Happy new year Earl!!

  13. Lisa Bentzin December 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    I saw the movie Jaws at the tender age of seven (much too young), so I’ve always been a little frightened of sharks, but when I encountered one while snorkeling, it was such a thrill I found myself swimming after it trying to get a closer look.

  14. Katie December 31, 2013 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Brilliant! It’s currently raining in the Lake District, but I’m hoping for some snow in the not too distant future, as there are some great sledging sites around here. Who said playing in the snow was just for children?!

    I think my biggest challenge to myself was skydiving. I’m afraid of heights, and I’d never even attempted any extreme sports. (Actually, my record for sport as a whole is pretty dismal.) But I tried it 3 years ago in New Zealand, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The experience seeing such a beautiful landscape from over 2 miles up is something I’ll never forget, and the floating sensation after the parachute is opened is just magical. It took loads of courage, but I’m still so pleased that I challenged myself to do it.

  15. Chelsea December 31, 2013 at 11:53 am - Reply

    I’m so glad you were able to get out and enjoy the cold!! I give you major props for sledding while not wearing any proper snow gear – not even gloves!!! Happy New Year, Earl! 🙂

  16. Maria December 31, 2013 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Hilarious! You’re a ringer for the winter Olympics!

  17. Erin December 31, 2013 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Congrats on being the “Sledding Champion of the World!” I was wondering who would get that award this year. 🙂

    I come from the snow but am also not a big fan of winter. But every year I go back to Utah and I have to say that I love sledding! It definitely makes you feel like a kid again. So glad you went and so glad you had a great time and created such a fun memory.

    Can’t think of anything I should try again. Maybe driving on icy roads? That just seems dangerous and not fun nor worth it. I’ll have to think about that question.

  18. Gina Nitschke December 31, 2013 at 1:21 am - Reply

    Ah, the things we do after a few glasses of wine! Think of all the experiences that have been missed without a little vino induced courage 🙂 Looks like great fun!

  19. Kate (The Lost Londoner) December 30, 2013 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Haha this post really made me laugh. You seem to explain things the way I would. Not sure how I’m not subscribed to your posts already. Let’s fix that right now..

    • Wandering Earl January 2, 2014 at 5:52 pm - Reply

      Thanks Kate 🙂

  20. Contented Traveller December 30, 2013 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Great post because it is fun and you have done something you never thought you would. I had never really had sailing on my list but went catamaran sailing in Vanuatu for a few weeks and loved it. In 2014 i want to go deep sea fishing. Why? Because I (think) I can. Anything with heights – not going to happen unless it is a ski lift – WITH A BAR. I hate those one’s without. Have a great 2014

  21. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go December 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    I love the fact that travel, in addition to challenging you to go outside your comfort zones, also forces you to try new things and, like you pointed out, question many of your beliefs, prejudices, likes and dislikes. I think it’s great that we get a chance to reinvent ourselves no matter if we’re a wanderer or a future traveler. Here’s to finding more things to like and laugh about in 2014!

  22. Victoria December 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Good story Earl. I always enjoy reading your posts. Contrary to many, I do love snow but I don’t like bananas. They stink and are slimy!
    Funnily, enough I have a photo of me eating a banana as a child!

    We’re going on a trip around Thailand and Indonesia next summer and in order to encourage my son to stay healthy, I’m gonna have to suck it up and eat banana pancakes and smoothies, as my boy has begun to dislike bananas too!

    I would say that I can’t wait and I don’t really want to!

  23. Gaelyn December 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Good for you. Not a lover of cold either, but I’d sled down a hill at the first invitation and return to that little girl who loved that thrill. Wonderful advice to push beyond our self limitations and fears.
    Plus a thanks to Steve to remind me to try parsnips and beets.
    Happy New Year where ever your journey takes you.

  24. Jimmy Dau December 30, 2013 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    So do you prefer sledding down a volcano or snow?

    • Wandering Earl January 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Hey Jimmy – Definitely snow! The snow can’t rip my skin to shreds!

  25. Lien December 30, 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    i am afraid of speed but i love to try some day 🙂 Happy New Year!

  26. Steve C December 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    What a timely post, as I’ve just recently experienced something similar. For my entire life, I’ve enjoyed eating just about everything that is considered food, except maybe for durians. However, there has always been one vegetable, the parsnip, that was on my “I hate” list since I was a kid. It’s almost profound, but after nearly 60 years of prejudice, my hate list has been reduced by at least one!

    I’ve been planning some of my future travel adventures through the southern states of the US. I want to explore any prejudices that may have been smoldered within me for years, if for no other reason then to understand other people’s point of view first hand (whether I agree or not, as I’m a Californian). Luckily, snow will not be confronted on this leg, but that’s another story.

    Last week, while grocery shopping, I spotted some parsnips. After that brief hate feeling, I decided to confront myself and bought one. Sure enough, I couldn’t believe how good it tasted that night for dinner. Sixty years of hate, erased in one meal. It’s a simple thing, but how many of us have things we hate, and don’t even know why. Just because? Or maybe something that happened a long time ago?

    • Wandering Earl January 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      Hey Steve – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a parsnip. So now I also need to start doing more things I’ve never done before! Not sure if I can find a parsnip here in Romania but I’m going to try. Happy New Year my friend!

  27. Sofie December 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Hahaha I can just imagine the combination of “Noooooo!!!!” and “Aaaaaaah!!!!” and “Yaaaaaaay!” 😀

    I’m not fond of snow or cold either, yet I’m going to Canada in March.
    To go snowboarding.
    For the very first time.

    Hold me please 😀

Leave A Comment