Second-years Greg Gerschenson, Ahil PonArul and Jon Tong hit the slopes in homemade sleds last Saturday at Red Bull’s Schlittentag event, hosted at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. Photo by Sal Ingram.

“We are going to die.”

That was the conclusion College Nine second-year Greg Gerschenson reached as he drove College Ten second-years Ahil Ponarul and Jon Tong to Alpine Meadows Ski Resort on Saturday, April 9. The trio were discussing their plans for Red Bull’s Schlittentag.

“Every possible scenario I can think of ends in all of us dying,” Gerschenson said.

Schlittentag, German for “Sledding Day,” is an event Red Bull holds at various ski resorts across the nation. Event participants build sleds from found materials and ride them down a course. Teams compete under team names reflecting their chosen theme. This year’s Schlittentag saw igloo-riding eskimos and three men in a tub tearing down the Tahoe slope.

One week before Schlittentag, Gerchenson, Tong and Ponarul decided they wanted to bring some UC Santa Cruz representation to the slope. While teams were not required to be affiliated with a college, the event was marketed towards university students. Consequently, a significant number of the teams displayed some form of school spirit.

Two days before Schlittentag, the trio started gathering supplies to make their sleds. Having started later than most, the group from UCSC said they did not have their eyes on one of the top three positions. Sleds at Schlittentag are scored on a 100-point scale, with 50 going to speed, 25 to creativity and 25 to style. Gerchenson said they were more concerned with just having a good time than with winning.

“Well, we’re going to enjoy ourselves,” Gerchenson said. “Maybe we’ll get best crash — that would be awesome.”

Another team led by UCSC second-year Samuel Bruns was slated to compete, but had to back out at the last minute due to a family emergency. This left Gerchenson, Tong and Ponarul with an extra sled and the idea of splitting into two teams.

Gerchenson decided to use a plank of wood Bruns had found, attach skis and a beach chair to it and adopt the team name “Wait.. This Isn’t Cabo.” He completed the outfit with board shorts, a tank top and flip-flops. Unable to transport his entire sled from Santa Cruz to Tahoe, Gerchenson built it just minutes before he took it down the slope. Saying that his sled may not have been the best, he remained confident that he would be able to make it work.

“My sled is probably about 70 [percent prepared for the course],” Gerchenson said. “But I’m around 100.”

Gerchenson was the first person to register on-site at the competition, so he was given the honor of going first.

When constructing the sled, Gerchenson underestimated the effect that all the duct tape he put on the bottom would have. The friction created by the layers of duct tape holding on the skis brought his sled to a halt before he reached the first jump in the course. However, after giving himself a few pushes, he was slowly but surely able to make it to the bottom.

“At least I can say I had the safest sled out there,” Gerchenson said.

Team Banana Swag, comprised of the banana-suit-clad duo Tong and Ponarul, had a little more success. Riding face-first on boogie boards rented from OPERS, they launched themselves down the hill separately because, as Tong said, “Two slugs are better than one.” Tong picked up more speed on the course and finished with a clean run. Ponarul trailed behind by a few yards and lost his momentum before the last jump, slowly sliding across the finish line.

Neither team managed to place in the competition, as only the top three and best crash were announced. First place went to a golf cart mounted on snowboards and second was awarded to a Bat-mobile replica built and manned by the family of UCSC third-year Tessa Santos. Best crash went to a sled from Stanford that exploded into pieces when it hit the last jump. However, the failure to claim a prize didn’t bother Gerchenson.

“I didn’t expect [my sled] to be the safest sled,” Gerchenson said, “but at least I finished. And my sled didn’t explode like Stanford’s.”

And the trio is already looking forward to Schlittentag 2012. Gerchenson discussed contacting the Ski and Snowboard Club and having them make it one of their events in order to increase the UCSC participation. Ultimately, all three of the UCSC participants said that the best part of Schlittentag was that it provided a unique, albeit slightly wacky, way to show their school pride.

“In the end [winning] didn’t matter,” Gerchenson said. “We went with an idea, executed it, and it went well. It was fun and I got to represent my school for a little bit.”