The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Anything but Mt. David on a Tray: Tradition Alternatives

Hadley Blodgett
Google Maps: most hills are marked with arrows. Not pictured: hills on Frye St. 

You might’ve chosen Bates for its relatively flat campus (compared to Colby’s “hill”) but low and behold, we have our own mountains. With every surface covered in ice or slippery snow this past week, even the most minuscule change of elevation has been emphasized.

Students might know about the most famous “hill” on campus: Mt. David. If you have any logic, large hardwood trees aren’t the greatest obstacles for a sledding path and the exposed pegmatite might not fare well for the bottom of sleds. It might be tradition to take a tray from Commons and race down the peak, throwing all thought to safety out the window. However, this tradition, I argue, is a tad dated.

Bates is all about ingenuity, resourcefulness, and climate consciousness. Using the plastic trays only ruins them before the visiting professors can use them. The college must either clean them or replace the broken Commons trays. I argue that there is another way, more fit for the current Bates student body: cardboard sleds.

Cardboard is a common item on campus and usually piles up in plentiful in dorm recycling rooms. You know, from that thing you ordered during your 11 am class that finally arrived at Post and Print. Anyway, it’s available and free.

Armed with a roll of duct tape and other common dorm items, I set out to prove this alternative was possible.


Usually, I’m a disorganized builder, so I started this journey by quickly sketching a plan of three types of sleds that I could make out of cardboard. Inspired by existing sled designs, they aim to be easy to build and create as little waste as possible.

Early designs, sketched on my phone (Hadley Blodgett)


Using three cardboard boxes, I cut and taped them to make these designs a reality.

“The Snowboard”- with adjustable foot straps and a trash bag on the bottom.


What hills?

As stated above, Mt. David can be a wary site for some sledders, and not everyone wants to risk climbing it in the winter. That’s the next portion of this experiment: Where to sled?

Using a screenshot of Google Maps, I marked where I saw the hills during icy morning walks to class. 

There are tons of little slopes but finding the best was a daunting task. I headed out at 9 pm with my sleds on Wednesday, January 31st, accompanied by a few friends who hadn’t gone as eco-friendly as I did, and bought sleds at Mardens for $7. 

We first settled on the hill outside Coram Library. Just the past week, I had slipped down the hill on my way to class. But this time, I was back – ready for revenge.

The Classic design barely made it down on this hill without getting stuck. I didn’t try the snowboard out of fear of ruining it early in the night. I would rate this hill as a 5/10. The other non-cardboard sleds worked well here, but the plain cardboard didn’t have enough momentum.

The next hill, beside Dana, was amazing. This small but steep hill was the perfect place for my snowboard to make its debut. Now, I’ve never snowboarded before, but I have years of skiing experience. This is all that gave me the false confidence that I could nail this snowboarding-esque technique perfectly the first time. 

The debut run of the Snowboard-style sled.
(Hadley Blodgett)

The birch trees scattering the bottom of the hill were a problem. Almost running into them with the Classic-style sled, I learned to steer around them with my arms. This hill was a 9/10 with one point taken off for its brevity and tree population. 

Next, we headed over towards the Puddle and the hill near the back of Smith. This was the first “real” sledding hill we had tried. It was long, sloped, and covered with snow. It was here where we spent the rest of our time; heading over to carefully play on the Puddle after a snowball fight had started. We ended our adventures with a well-deserved late-night snack at the Den. 

To my surprise, although they were a bit wet, the cardboard sleds were still standing..

Improvements and Concluding Remarks

Although I tried to make the sleds completely cardboard or recycled, the trash bag on the bottom of the snowboard was a wasteful element I want to remove next time. In the future, I would either use a different material of cardboard which has more of a slip on the snow’s surface, or find a more eco-friendly alternative.

This was one of the nights I know I will look back on as a truly core “Bates” experience. 

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About the Contributor
Hadley Blodgett, Assistant Arts & Leisure Editor
Hadley (she/her) is a Sophomore from Buckfield, Maine which is really close to Bates. She is a member of the Brass Ensemble and also the Jazz Band, and does music in her free time too. In her free time volunteers with the Auburn Community Concert Band providing free community concerts through the summer and winter. Besides a minor interest in music she also enjoys being outside and exploring parts of Maine she hasn’t been to before. Her favorite hike is currently Eyebrow Loop Trail. In her free time she writes, works, and also dabbles in photography.

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