What City Kids Don’t Know About the Hill

Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs in the 1970s there were plenty of winter storms and a slew of snow days. I have fond memories of family toboggan rides and riding Flexible Flyers down the hill at the local golf course.

It was even more magical when my father grew up in the 1930s. The streets were covered with snow for weeks on end because they didn’t salt or sand the roads. Kids sledded the steep hills of South Orange or were pulled around the block clinging to the bumper of a car driven by my grandfather.

One of the surprises of raising kids in New York City is that there are so many great places to go sledding. When it snows, (which admittedly seems less often these days) we head to Central Park. There are steep hills near 82nd street on the Upper East Side and 77th on the Upper West Side. We head for 100th street on the West Side.

After any snow storm there is usually an eclectic mix of neighborhood kids, Columbia students and tourists. The locals bring plastic sleds and wear proper snow gear. Some have snowboards. The college students and tourists wear jeans and wrap cardboard boxes in black plastic garbage bags.

The main difference between sledding in the suburbs and Manhattan is that city kids don’t know that you are supposed to walk up the side of the hill. They sled down and then walk right up the center.

There are a couple of problems with this behavior. The first is that you tend to run them over. You head down the hill and inevitably bear down on a little tyke oblivious to the danger. They fall over like bowling pins.

The second is that the snow on the hill never gets packed down and slick, so its slower than it might be otherwise.

Its one of the few times that I think there is something I learned growing up in the suburbs that my children don’t know.

It’s a pretty frustrating experience. You want to shake the kids on the hill and say “what is it about the physics of sledding that you don’t understand?”

But no amount of pleading for them to “walk up the side of the hill” seems to change behavior. It’s like sledding evolution failed to cross the Hudson River.

**Published by Ted Merz Mar 10, 2016**