Sledding on Suicide Hill

A Post By: Michael Gallo

People think sledding is for children. But like hardcore drugs, the joy of sledding is wasted on the young. You can’t really appreciate its full potential until you hit your sledding prime which for a male is about 30. For a female it’s 19. No one should quit sledding unless they get a terminal illness or hit their 70s. Whichever comes first.

A lot has been made of what to actually sled on. To this, I say: Babe Ruth is still the only clean home run king and he was essentially going to bat with a glorified table leg. It’s not about the equipment. I’ve said it time and time again, and I’ll continue to say it: It’s not the sled…it’s the heart of the sledder. Get on a home-made sled. Ride a trashcan lid. It doesn’t matter what you’re riding, just find the biggest, most badass hill you can and bomb that thing until you get hurt.

I myself will not be sledding today. After years of sledding in the school of hard knocks, I had to give it up. Doctors told me that if I go sledding one more time…my spleen will explode out of my mouth. I curse the Heavens above every day I miss out on sledding. And it’s all because of one fateful day when I decided to test what kids called Satan’s Tumor.

In Rochester, NY, where I lived for a very short time, there was a hill. Nay, not a hill. A quasi-mountain. It was called Suicide Hill. And if you were young and had a death wish, you got your sledding done at Suicide Hill. Suicide Hill was called such because it was the most dangerous sledding location in the lower 48 American states. It used to be a skiing hill, but too many skiers died on it.

Sprinkled along Suicide Hill were several death traps “obstacles” that nature put there to deter kids. But we were another breed. One of these obstacles was the famed Satan’s Tumor. Halfway down Suicide Hill was a mound about 4 feet tall. By the time you hit this mound you would typically be doing anywhere between 60-75 mph. But here’s the kicker: on the other side of Satan’s Tumor was a 6 foot drop.

One day I got down on my toboggan and said “I’m hitting the tumor.” Women immediately started crying. Friends begged me to rethink my decision. My girlfriend at the time told me she’d wait for me. I said, “Don’t. I’ll see you on the other side.” Before pushing off, I glanced over at neighborhood legend Rip Kipley. He had six tallies on his leather jacket. Six jumps off Satan’s Tumor. The legend was shaking his head no. Before I could rethink my decision, I was off. I sped down Suicide Hill, picking up speed at a dangerous rate. My hood came off a fourth of the way down the hill. My knit hat disintegrated, and tears froze to my cheeks. As I picked up more speed the chilly air starting stripping the enamel off my teeth. That’s when I hit Satan’s Tumor straight on. The newspapers would later say scientists estimated I was going 81 mph. It was probably because of Achilles Heel, my toboggan that I weighed down with lead. The jolt from the Tumor gave me whiplash before I went airborne. Flying through the air I experienced total consciousness and peace. I flew upside down through the falling flakes, wondering, experiencing, loving, and knowing. But it all stopped when I landed on the other side. Landing on my tailbone, every major organ in my body shut down from the impact. A few of my teeth exploded into a powder. My vision went out, and I lost feeling in all of my extremities. The last thing I remember is Rip Kipley putting his leather jacket over my motionless, 6 year old body.

And for that reason, I can’t go sledding today. Sometimes I still think about the events of that fateful day. When I visit NY, I sometimes go to Suicide Hill and look at Lost Rock, a large stone monument where the neighborhood elders chiseled in the names of those lost on Suicide Hill. I was almost on that rock. But God let me live. Just think about that before you hit the hills today. If you lose the ultimate game, will your name be set in stone? Will it be written among the legends…or melt away with the snow?

Be safe out there.

With the Winter Olympics coming up, a lot of people are going to be willing to put their lives on the line to do something crazy. And while the allure of going down in neighborhood legend is appealing, just remember that if you have a wife, or other family members that rely on you, it may not be appropriate or responsible to lose your life while sledding.

Sledding isn’t a game. When you realize it isn’t about fun, that it’s about something heavier than that, then you’ll be able to truly grasp the essence of the sport. Let me ask you a question: how many Greek gods went sledding? The answer is zero.

We’re all after one thing: hot, nasty, badass speed.

Oh, and while you’re so obsessed with the snowstorm and sledding, it’s Black History Month. You racist.

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