(Click the pictures to take a closer look!)
After a weekend in Bergun, that’s more than just a Ricky Bobby quote to me.
When we were first told about the 3.7 mile sledding track, I saw a triumphant return to my youth. North Carolina isn’t known for snow, but we are known for getting out of school when it does snow. Cautious school districts always led to wicked snow days, and when you live on a street filled with your cousins you’ve got a whole army to play in the snow with.
It helped that we lived in front of the neighborhood hill. Just picture a group of 5-8 cousins (on a constantly rotating basis depending on injuries, who was mad at who, and who’d gone in for hot chocolate). We would line up our sleds for the intense… 100 foot run. At the bottom of the hill was a sharp turn. Our goal? Make the turn, avoid the crashes, and get your sled past a certain mailbox first. Typically, two people would slip past the wreckage of that crazy turn and fight each other down the stretch. The others would just hope they hadn’t run smack into the fire hydrant.
And that’s what I saw happening in Bergun. Some fun sledding. A little chaos.
What I got in Bergun was my childhood on steroids.
We rented a little apartment unit with our friends, the Domecks. Katie and I arrived at about 10:30pm on Friday and had to trudge our suitcases through the little snowy town of Bergun. Past ice bars and sled shops and mountain churches… We bundled up in the always-less than 20 degree weather and waited with excitement for the next day.
Renting sleds was super easy, as the whole town feels built around this industry at this time of the year. We joined a legion of sledders, hauling our flyers onto the train, and taking it ten minutes up to Preda.
Our first run began with walking. The first five minutes of the track really were too powdery to pick up momentum. But when we finally got moving, it was ten minutes of pure sledding joy. The run back down to Bergun is a wide one, easily navigated. The trick, really, is just to avoid hitting other people and to slow yourself enough to handle the turns. I’ll admit that I started out ecstatic, but when the run ended back in Bergun (about 500 yards from our house), I was also a little let down. That was what we’d come all this way for? Of course it was awesome. If my cousins and I had these hills in our childhood, we would have never come inside (we probably also would have died, though, to be honest).
So it was even more exciting when we figured out there was another run. Just fifty feet or so from the end of the first run was a ski lift. We checked with the operator and discovered our pass covered both. Eager to try out another course, we went.
It’s kind of fun. You sit their waiting for the typical ski lift. As you sit down, the guy hooks your sleds onto the back of the lift so they’re waiting for you when you get up there. I was not expecting, however, for the ski lift to take us so high up. The second run is called Darlux, and it boasts a 4,000 foot vertical. That’s all; no big deal. Katie and I bundled together as the ski lift kept taking us higher… and higher… and higher.
And let’s just say the Darlux run was everything I’d been hoping for. Here, the track is about half as wide as what we saw on the Bergun-Preda run. And after the first easy turn, things got way faster, way steeper, and way more dangerous. Although 5 runs doesn’t make me an expert, here are some helpful tips for when you go sledding at a course like this one:
- Maneuvering is all in the feet – Thankfully, Katie bought me some nice boots before we went. When I was a kid, we used to lay down on our stomachs for racing. These sleds are sit-up versions and require some deft use of foot breaking. Dragging the left foot a little would swing your sled that way, and vice versa. Dig in both heels and you could slow yourself coming in to turns.
- Body Leans and Hand Sweeps for Turns – But why slow yourself coming in to turns when you figure out the Mario Kart skid trick? On my third run, I figured out that I didn’t have to brake at all coming in to turns. Instead, I’d pull the rope tight, lean my body into the way I was turning, and let my fingertips drag me that direction. Justin and I were basically pros at this by the end of the day.
- When Passing, say, “Entschuldigen!” – When Justin and I realized our need for speed, we also realized the track was littered with slow-bodies working their way down to the bottom. In cases like this, pick your spot, make your move, and shout, Entschuldigen! as you go flying past.
- Go At Your Own Pace – So I had fun trying to break my neck… Katie took it slow, dragging heels as she worked her way to the bottom. And you know what? We both had fun. Katie did mention later that she’d probably have felt more comfortable on the Bergun-Preda run. Which is understandable… The Darlux one was pretty dangerous. At one point, we saw a girl who’d veered entirely off the track and into the woods.
- Bring Goggles (or Maintain Pole Position) – Several times I ended up right behind someone, and it was like riding through fog. Huge gasps of snow kicking up right into my eyes. If you don’t have goggles, just make sure you don’t give up first place position.
- Gloves/Mask – At one point, I did three runs in a row. That’s about an hour moving 18-25 mph through 15 degree weather. It’s cold. But the only things that suffered, for me, were hands and face. Justin I could have probably rolled out two or three more runs if not for how cold it got. Highly suggest having high quality materials in both departments.
- Watch Out For Walls – Poor Hailey landed on our Injured Reserve list when she tested the Darlux engineers’ wall-building abilities. She wasn’t the only one. I nailed a wall at one point, and saw a number of people bailing as their sleds went flying toward both man-made and natural obstacles. Just know that, especially at Darlux, you can gain some wicked speeds coming down certain straightaways.
- Choose Adventure – This is my last tip. If you have the chance to do something really, really fun… Do it! As soon as we heard about Bergun, we were all eager to make it the next destination of our places to visit (Shout out to the Holladays who suggested the spot). It was an easy choice. But the place did more than fit the billing. It exceeded expectations. The tracks were wild, the company we kept was great, and at the end of the day we got to bundle up in a cozy mountain town. So this is my slight push for you to go do something fun.
Now, excuse me while I google search, “When does sledding season end in Bergun?”