This annual NYC outdoors event compresses all sorts of activities related to snowboarding, skiing, and general winter fun into one stimuli-packed day. Last year it was in Central Park and the year before it was in the little field where the FDR runs into Houston St. This year it was thankfully in Prospect Park, in our beloved borough of Brooklyn.
We missed last year’s but 09’s was indeed a textbook Unfun Day, with SuperDuperKid in tears from a too-tight boot-inflicted welt on his foot, which of course hit its peak of pain intensity right as we arrived at the site. On that fateful afternoon, after waiting in the kind of epic, soul-crushing lines that come with these type of events, we ended up scurrying through the blistering cold to battle for a cab on pedestrian-packed Houston St., weary and defeated.
This year started more promisingly since it was much closer to home. Still, as we awoke that morning I knew I had to pitch it hard since lately SDK had been a bit of a homebody, in no small part due to his new Xbox, his growing workload at school, and of course the chilly air.
It didn’t go well. What with teacher problems, spanish and guitar lessons, and the travails of kid life in general, come the weekend SuperDuperKid looked like a depleted 9 year old wall-street warrior, ready to put his feet up and leave it all behind. Plus he’d been one of many victims at his school of a mysterious flu-like sickness and so perhaps was not at full strength.
Taking advantage of a surprise sales call I had to take, he crept back into bed and was out cold for over an hour. The event started at eleven and I like to get there by 10:30, so I was already thrown off my game. We were further vexed when we finally made it out the house to find the Ol’ SuperDuperDad-mobile immobilized by the icy slush underneath her wheels. We eventually escaped with the help of some mexican construction workers nearby. (Was I supposed to tip or was this just some good-natured neighborly aid? I JUST DON’T KNOW.) By the time we got going it was after 1pm and a small but steady stream of icy rain was coming down.
After one of my astonishing feats of parking expertise, we entered the park at the corner of Lincoln Rd and Ocean Ave, right by the little playground where we’d had so many great games of tag and sweet italian ices in summers’ past.
Seeing the grounds blanketed with unfamiliar snow was cool and SDK immediately trekked out over the tundra to where some kids had made a fort of gigantic ice boulders. We began to see that our unintended scheduling troubles (as well as the inclement weather) were in fact a boon. Where there would normally be billowing lines of humanity was pure, sweet space and after enjoying the snow fort for a while we sauntered through the gates and deeper into the bowels of Winterjam 2011.
We passed all the vendor stalls, where groups and businesses like the New York Knicks, Dunkin Donuts and local ski resorts plied their wares, marching straight up to the waiver sign-up section. It was always a little annoying that once you waited to get inside you would then have to endure yet another line to sign the release form that made sure the city incurred no liability should you suffer death or serious injury at the hands of a runaway snowboard or a poisoned Starbucks sample. Anyway there was little point since SDK and I always take this as an opportunity to experiment and see just how ridiculous a fake name we can each come up with for the forms.
A quick perusal of the activity center made it clear that waiting for the waivers was a waste anyhow. The snowboarding center is really made for the neophyte. Who wants to wait two hours just to glide down 100 feet of barely steep hill? More entertainment was had watching the crazy jumps and tricks of the boarding pros on the gigantic ramp set up further into the park. There was also a fairly enjoyable trampoline performance going on.
All in all, we were lucky to find that bastion of winter-awesomeness that no parent should be without yet I foolishly had come unequipped with: The plastic snow-sled. (Snow disc? Snow shield?) Really, finding a broken one on the ground was the savior of the day as thereafter we took turns sledding down our own cool litle paths carved out in various little side-trails and crannies we found hiking through Prospect Park.
This got me thinking.
We ended up having a fantastic time, and it made me wish I’d come to BK’s own Central Park earlier in the winter. But I also realized that fun is not about Winterjam or lines or sleds or any thing like that but about the ability to keep that child-like outlook at any age and in any situation. By the time we started hiking through the park, away from the crowds, the generic rock-rap band, the endless promotions and spectacles, the event itself had become irrelevant. We had so much fun just hiking, sledding and snowball fighting that we were no longer interested. We always do. It’s because no matter where we are, we’re play-fighting with our made-up cartoon characters, laughing at how weird other people are or just sitting in awe of this crazy world around us.
Wintertime in NYC is enough for any city kid, as long as a sense of joy, curiosity and imagination are kept at hand. Bring these concepts wherever you go and you’ll always have a fabulous time and always be a SuperDuperDad (or Mom) yourself.
Official SuperDuperDad Yay or Nay Verdict: Yay(ish) but go on the later side and bring a sled!
Details: Be prepared for crowds, lines and all that goes with it in NYC.