Fun in the snow

Sledders ride out winter during annual Ballston Spa festival

Weather holds up to avoid repeat of 2012 cancellation

Saturday, February 16, 2013
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Fun in the snow

Ballston Spa Winter Festival on Bath Street on Saturday, February 16, 2013.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Ballston Spa Winter Festival on Bath Street on Saturday, February 16, 2013.

— Sledders shifted their weight, pushed with their hands and even got up to walk in order to travel nearly 1,000 feet along a snow-packed run down Bath Street in the village of Ballston Spa on Saturday.

The nearly one-fifth of a mile track, which began with an elevated start on West High Street by the county offices and ran down to Washington Street, was built as part of the 17th annual Ballston Spa Winter Fun Festival. Families showed up in the late morning and stayed until late afternoon, taking advantage of the snow last week that made this possible. Last year's sledding was cancelled because of a lack of snow, and warm weather this week again threatened the project's construction.

A steady stream of kids bundled up in snowpants and winter jackets climbed the mound of snow that began the run. Carrying sleds of all shapes, including long two-seaters, plastic discs and inflatable tubes, they walked up steps carved into the snow, which was piled more than 15 feet high.

Then, with a push from volunteers, sledders began cruising down the hill with varying degrees of success. Some immediately careened into the track's side wall, which was more than a foot tall in places and just a few inches in others, or traveled about 200 feet before slowing to a stop when the trail flattened.

The excitement wasn't over for the kids once their sled stopped, however, because in most cases there was another sledder in hot pursuit, which led to many near misses and more than a few collisions.

Parents lined the trail, armed with recording devices to capture the adventure. They cheered on children, cautioned them to get off the track to avoid being hit and seemed to be more than a little interested in cruising down the hill themselves.

Clifton Park resident Peg Newell and her 3-year-old granddaughter, Campbell Juan, were able to travel further than most, with their two-person sled not stopping until they had run more than half the track.

"It was very fun," said Campbell, who was anxious to ride again. This was her second time down the trail and any anxiety from the first trip had melted away; she proudly noted that she hadn't been afraid at all this time.

Newell said her family has lived in Saratoga County for a number of years, but didn't discover the sledding event until two years ago. She was appreciative of the village and the municipal workers who made the day possible.

"We love it," she said. "It's a great chance to get out of the house, run into neighbors and get some fresh air and exercise. ... It gives the village a personality and helps foster community."

Despite how far Newell and her granddaughter traveled, they still weren't able to reach the second launch site on Front Street. Sledders were sent down this final leg of their journey and then most opted to trudge back up the hill for another ride.

The weather was perfect for sledding, even though it had jeopardized the whole day until Thursday, when it became clear that there would be enough snow to make the run. The festivals in 2006 and 2010, as well as last year, were cancelled.

Music, dancing and free food was offered at the Ballston Spa Elks Lodge after the sledding.

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