Philly adults and kids head for the snowy hills for a pandemic-friendly escape

Natasha Mell-Taylor, Jared Greenwald, their child Juniper, and friend Phoebe sled at Fairmount Park

Natasha Mell-Taylor and her husband Jared Greenwald brought their 5 year-old Juniper and her friend Phoebe to sled at Fairmount Park. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It’s been a long year for Natasha Mell-Taylor.

In pre-pandemic times, would she be braving Monday’s stinging sleet for the chance to go sledding?

Probably not, admitted the Port Richmond mom. But circumstances forced her to be “outdoorsy” in order to get a change of scenery. So there she was with her husband, 5-year-old daughter and her friend, bundled up and ready to brave the cold for hours.

Mark Gamba, his son Luke, and friend Elias Zarin share a sled at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia.
Mark Gamba, his son Luke, and friend Elias Zarin shared a sled at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“Quarantine affects our decision to do everything,” Mell-Taylor joked. “With a 5-year-old, it’s the worst.”

It’s not the traditional indoor playground visit, followed by a beer at their favorite taproom while the family watches the snow, said Mell-Taylor, but that’s life now. The family came with thermoses of hot chocolate, water to stay hydrated, and lawn chairs for some sitting breaks. Later in the day, they hoped to break out a propane tank to keep warm.

As residents braced for a second round of snow later in the day, freezing rain fell on Philadelphia throughout the morning — not ideal snow day conditions. But the half-dozen adults and children spread out on Fairmount Park’s Belmont Plateau, or Plateau for short, echoed Mell-Taylor’s desire to just get out of the house.

“We were in the house and wanted to come out and get some air and have some fun,” said Lynn Nichols, one of the adults who came with her own sled.

Lynn Nicholas and her husband Dennis Lee sled at Belmont Plateau
Lynn Nicholas and her husband Dennis Lee sled at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“We just got tired of watching the snow fall and not being able to come and play in it.”

Nichols and others said another reason to come early was because the sleet was making last night’s dusting of snow “nice and packed.”

“The snow is good, though it is a little hailey ‘cuz if you sled down then it hits your face,” said 9-year-old Phoebe Zaring, who was able to beat the crowds normally drawn to the Plateau because of its kid-friendly descent.

David Zarin and his daughter Phoebe sled in Fairmount Park
David Zarin and his daughter Phoebe, 9, went out to Belmont Plateau for sledding. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Unlike students in the Philadelphia School District, Zaring and her brother, students at Germantown Friends School, got a full snow day.

“I like it a lot,” said Phoebe of the snow. “We get a three-day weekend, so that’s one day off of school … I just don’t like school so much.”

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