Wake up Butler — it’s time to sleigh

Kara Sabanski and Audrey Ecelbarger sleigh the day away on a dorm mattress. Photo by Lauren Gdowski. 

AIDAN GREGG | OPINION CO-EDITOR| agregg1@butler.edu

On Jan. 25, 2023, I arose from my slumber with a smile on my face. I could sense that something on Butler’s campus had shifted overnight, and my intuition is never wrong. I plucked my phone from its charger and was greeted with the most delightful Dawg Alert: “Due to inclement weather, Butler University will suspend campus operations today.” 

Memories of last year’s Butler blizzard came rushing back: no classes, now-Collegian Culture Co-Editor Leah Ollie’s treacherous trek through the snow to the Jordan College Annex for an interview — and of course, flying down the Sellick Bowl slopes on makeshift sleds. On this day, Bulldogs new and old had the opportunity to experience the joys of winter weather. 

Greeted by mud, slush and several dozen discarded, empty shooters, a handful of stubborn Butler students made the arduous journey to the Sellick Bowl for some impromptu sledding this year. Few college students have the foresight to bring sleds to campus for an occasion such as this, so often, improvisation is necessary. The creative student’s options for a pseudo sleigh are nearly endless, ranging from IKEA bags to dorm mattresses. 

But with limitless possibilities, how could you possibly know the best way to sleigh Butler’s snowy slopes? Fear not, because if there is one thing that I know how to do, it’s sleigh. Here is a ranking of the slayest ways to sleigh — without a sleigh. 

5) Cardboard

Cardboard fit for sledding is relatively easy to acquire. Just find a box and smash it flat or, if the situation is dire, go digging in the trash room like a feral animal. 

Sophomore biology major Aidan Trachtman attempted to use sheets of cardboard to sled down a steep section of the Holcomb Observatory hill, to mixed results. 

“Me and my friend, we found all this cardboard, and we used the Gorilla Glue duct tape to tape these sheets together,” Trachtman said. “We were trying to go down that steep patch, but the cardboard didn’t work so well.” 

Unfortunately, duct tape and cardboard are no match for wet snow.  Were it a bit colder, and the snow less melty, perhaps cardboard would be a better candidate for an improvised sled. 

In a pinch, cardboard might do, but as far as sleighs go, it does not slay the most. 

4) Container lids

A storage container lid took my Sellick Bowl sled-ginity. They are lightweight enough that it is not overly cumbersome to carry from main campus to the Sellick Bowl, and their smooth plastic exterior makes for a decent sledding experience. 

Unfortunately, these container lids tend to have inconvenient grooves that are prone to snagging snow. I vividly remember my container lid getting stuck halfway down the hill, promptly propelling me the rest of the way to the bottom. For some, this may be a mark against the container lid’s efficacy as a sled. However, for those of us willing to live on the wild side, the possibility of danger adds to the lid’s appeal. 

Additionally, the problem with using a container lid is that they may return from a sledding excursion battered by the elements and thus they are unable to fulfill their original function. If the contents of your containers would be compromised without their lids, you may want to reconsider your choice of pseudo sleigh. 

3) Mattresses

Head to the Sellick Bowl on a snow day, and odds are you will see at least one stiff, blue dorm mattress with anywhere between two and 10 college students packed on top of it. 

I can only imagine that this is a violation of Residence Life policy, but I must admit that I attempted to sneak a spare mattress out of my ResCo room last year. A team of three of my friends hauled the mattress out my room, while two others served as lookouts. Tragically, the mission failed, as we were nearly intercepted by the on-duty RA. 

Audrey Ecelbarger, a first-year exploratory studies major, and Kara Sabanski, a first-year speech, language & hearing sciences major, had more luck than I did in their mattress-sledding endeavor. 

“We thought it would go better than it did,” Ecelbarger said. “It was still fun. We tried the running start method, [but it] didn’t really work.” 

By the time Ecelbarger and Sabanski hit the slopes, most of the snow had melted, rendering the mattress mostly ineffectual for sledding. However, even if a mattress is not necessarily the optimal mode of high-speed sledding, there is something to be said for the novelty of using a mattress as a sled. 

Sabanski feels that even though the mattress did not live up to expectations, it was still worth the attempt for the sake of campus tradition. 

“It’s [Ecelbarger and I’s] first year at Butler, and we’ve kind of heard the tradition [on the] first big snowfall, you go to the Sellick Bowl and go sledding,” Sabanski said. “The normal sled [would] work better, but the mattress was more of an experience.” 

In this case, sledding is about the journey, not the destination. Even if you’re not rocketing down the Sellick Bowl on a mattress, the ridiculousness of your attempt is sure to provide some laughs. 

2) IKEA bags

Prior to this year, I was woefully ignorant of the IKEA bag method of sledding. Of course, I am no stranger to an IKEA bag. They make the arduous move-in and move-out processes run smoothly every semester, and for that alone, I will sing their praises.

What I did not know is that you can squeeze yourself into an IKEA bag, hold on tight and zoom down the slopes. Mankind’s greatest invention just got even better. 

Ecelbarger enlightened me with an explanation of the virtues of IKEA bag sleds. 

“It worked a lot better [than the mattress],” Ecelbarger said. “It’s your own little toboggan.” 

It takes a more innovative student than I to devise a means of sledding as ingenious as this. Who would have thought that you could begin training to become a professional tobogganist at our silly little university? 

1) The penguin method 

Who needs a sled? The human body is truly a miraculous thing. But perhaps the most magical thing about us is our capacity to fling ourselves down hills without any significant bodily harm. 

Trachtman feels that sledding on one’s stomach — which I have dubbed “the penguin method” — is the best way to sleigh, sans sleigh. 

“I like it because you can really feel the ground sliding against you,” Trachtman said. “And I feel like even if I wasn’t necessarily going faster …  there wasn’t any sort of awkward start [like with using a sled], and you kind of get me on the sled and you’re kind of scooching yourself down.”

Personally, the thought of throwing myself face-first at the ground and raw-dogging it down a hill is a little scary. I’m not the most athletic person, and at this point in my life, I really can’t afford any broken bones. Trachtman allayed my worries with some advice on the execution of the penguin method. 

“I would recommend starting slow and figuring out the form,” Trachtman said. “I had some other friends show up, and they were trying, and they just kept landing on their hands and knees, and it was not a fun experience for them. But, if you can get the form down it really is fun.”

Practice makes perfect, and it seems that this method of sledding, difficult though it may be, is the best way to sled without a sled. 

So, next time classes are canceled, don’t be discouraged from taking a spin down the Sellick Bowl if you don’t have a sled. The only limit is your imagination, so get out there, and keep sleighing.


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