Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 02.10.09
Stanstead, Quebec


The joys of Canadian winter sliding or, Remembering my Frozennutterizer

Around this time of year, my nephew in New Zealand likes to send his North American relatives emails like this:

"It's so hot here. Enjoy all the cold and snow. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!"

The extra exclamation marks: that's what gets to me the most.

I think about riposting with something along the lines of, "Oh yeah? Well, New Zealanders say things like, 'I spiggled my binny on the shamble and bobbled my darawiga into next week.'"

But I don't, mainly because I really have no idea how New Zealanders speak other than the occasional "Good on yer!" I do know that they call themselves "kiwis," which can be either a flightless bird or a fuzzy fruit. But you can use that gag only so many times.

Instead, I tend to respond with "Dude, it's beautiful here!" or "Your mama!" His mama being my sister, neither response is particularly satisfying.

His e-mails do sometimes inspire a bit of soul-searching. Why do we live in this part of the world where winter reigns for much of the year? Madness? Health care? Cheap cable?

I think about what we have in our North American winter that New Zealand doesn't -- besides the flu. Skiing and snowboarding -- they can do that. As demonstrated in The Lord of the Rings, famously filmed in New Zealand, they have snow. And hobbits.

Ah, but where must you go in New Zealand to enjoy those snow-bound activities and hobbits? The mountains. What can you do closer to sea level in Canada that you can't do in lowland New Zealand?


The Northern Hemisphere offers primo sliding opportunities that the south can never touch.

What's so great about sliding? Well, for starters there are the names of the sliding apparatus: Sno-Blaster, Air-Zinger, Snopedo, Facefroster, Frozenutterizer. Whether it's a seat with skis, a disk or a sheet of extruded polyvinyl, the name is clearly what makes it go fast.

I'm old enough to remember the transition from the traditional wooden toboggan to the ultimate sliding innovation: the Krazy Karpet. Whoever invented the Krazy Karpet was a mad genius.

Instead of the traditional wooden toboggan with its protective curved front and heavy-friction bottom, you had a rolled up piece of plastic with holes that no mittens could ever fit through. So not only did little kids get to speed out of control, they got to fly off into the bushes. What could be better?

After the Krazy Karpet, sliding never looked back. From that point on, sliding became not so much about going fast as about trying to survive.

(Incidentally, remember how the ads said you could use your Krazy Karpet on grass or sand? Whoever did that? Seriously.)

The other great thing about sliding is that you usually don't have to travel far. For us, our hill of choice over the years has been the hill at the Stanstead College arena. Especially when the kids were younger, we'd join our friends and their kids and spend a good afternoon there.

Is it a long hill? No. That's good with small kids, as they tend to want to be dragged up. Is it a steep hill? No. That's also good because you generally want your children to survive the afternoon.

So what's so great about the arena hill?

The jump at the bottom, of course.

Sliding down arena hill takes you right into the arena parking lot. But because the lot is plowed, you usually end up with a fine lift-off ramp at the bottom of the slope.

We spent many an afternoon seeing who could speed fastest down the hill, make the biggest jump and coast furthest into the parking lot. And by "we" I mean the adults. The kids usually got bored after a couple of runs and spent their time eating snow.

Ideally, you want to get some air on those jumps -- air between your sled and the ground, and usually between you and the sled. There were many a crushed coccyx on those afternoons.

Cheap winter fun. They can't do that in New Zealand, although over there I think they have a cocktail called a "crushed coccyx."