I was talking with a friend the other night about snow and sledding, I mentioned Sno-Nuts and how much fun they were and I was amazed that she had no idea what I was talking about. Granted, she grew up in Seattle, which gets very little snow, so it shouldn't have been that surprising that she was not familiar with sledding gear. But anyway it got me thinking about how much I used to love sledding and how much I'd love to do it again.
Note: I use the term "sledding" here in a broad sense to refer to the act of travelling down a snowy hill at great speed while sitting on some sort of un-motorized vehicle, such as yr traditional sled (feh, slow), toboggan (better, faster), or inner-tube (much better, much faster).
A Sno-Nut was basically a cheap plastic tube (kind of like this, but this is not an official Sno-Nut. It was important to have an official Sno-Nut) with a cheap plastic seat in the middle and cheap plastic handles on either side, to give the illusion of steering. With much, much experience you could learn to lean just the right way and get some measure of control, but the handles were there pretty much for hanging on for dear life because, friends, a Sno-Nut fawking flew down them hills. I had a theory that there was some sort of air-cushion formed by the snow reacting to the cheap plastic, though I've never proven this. Let's just say that the difference in speed between a regular old inner tube and a Sno-Nut was like the difference between your bike and an F-14 with four extra F-14 engines strapped to it.
We'd get snow pretty regularly in winter in Nyack, and we lived a block away from a church with a great sledding hill next to it. My little brother and I and our friends would be out there from right after school until well after dark (night sledding was a special thrill). The hill was about twenty feet wide with some hedges with prickers (that could blind you) on one side and a brick wall (that could collapse your skull) on the other. At the bottom was a paved driveway and then a bit more hill. The goal was to build up enough speed to scrape across the driveway and continue down to the very bottom of the hill, where there were some more hedges to slice you up, then Piermont Avenue, and then eventually the Hudson River. No one ever made it to the river, though with these new-fangled cheap plastics they're coming out with it's only a matter of time.
A Sno-Nut cost about five bucks, and it was good that they were cheap because they'd usually only last through a few days of our punishment. I tried a sturdier model one time, not a Sno-Nut, and it wasn't the same. No air-cushion. Had to go back to the Sno-Nut.
And I haven't even told you about full-contact downhill sledding yet, which I strongly believe should be an event in the Winter Olympics. All you need for this event is a Sno-Nut and a wiffle ball bat. Simplicity itself. One simple rule: no projectiles. Our time will come.