“The snow was pink. Blood was everywhere.” Residents remember the fun - and mayhem - of sledding Mt. Trashmore while Virginia Beach considers bringing it back
- Written by Paul Bibeau
- Category: Local News
- Published: 15 February 2022
Nato Bobadilla, 38, lives in San Diego now, but he still gets texts and emails from his family back in Virginia whenever it snows. It’s something of a family joke, the way he describes it – a way of teasing him about what happened when he went sledding down Mt. Trashmore.
And of course, he still has the metal rod in his femur.
“I remember I had, like, three pairs of pants on,” he said, talking about that Sunday in early February 1996. “Paramedics cut through them.” He said he might have gone into shock, because he didn’t remember feeling pain.
An ambulance took Bobadilla to the hospital. He had a broken leg.
Virginia Beach city staff are thinking about what happened then – and on other snowy days at Trashmore as well. Several city departments are considering the possibility of making sledding on Mt. Trashmore legal for the first time in decades.
Bobadilla was far from alone on that hill. The 1996 storm drew an estimated 5,000 people to the summit. News reports say 20 were injured, 13 were hospitalized, and two had surgery for abdominal injuries.
The mother of a 12 year-old girl sued the city for $850,000 in damages and compensation. The city settled the case for $33,600.
City Council Member Rocky Holcomb asked city staff to try to bring sledding back, and he thinks there’s a way to do it safely.
Holcomb has experience on both sides of the issue. He said he went sledding on Mt. Trashmore until the mid-90s as a young man. In 1991, he joined the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.
He continued to enjoy the Mt. Trashmore slopes on his off hours. After the city restricted and eventually banned sledding, Holcomb’s job was to guard the place.
“I'm sitting out there in the middle of the night on duty looking at Mount Trashmore thinking, ‘Man, I could get a good run going down with a sled right now,’” he said, “but knowing I couldn't because my job was to keep people off of that hill.”
Trashmore sledders have plenty of stories about the fun, and danger, of riding down that hill.
“Can't remember the year,” Emily Torres wrote to WHRO, “but I still have the scar across my nose from a trash can lid that went rogue and capped me right in the face.”
Jane Lawson remembers her younger brother bouncing off a railing.
“The snow was pink,” she wrote. “Blood was everywhere.”
They went down on boogie boards, a canoe, what looked like swimming pool covers, and, in one case, the detached hood of a car.
Bobadilla’s friend’s dad worked at a carpet business, so he cut out sheets of linoleum for the kids. Bobadilla said the sheets were very fast on the frozen slope. Perhaps that’s why he ended up in the hospital.
Holcomb said he’s confident the city can bring back sledding. He said officials could block off some areas for sledding, and others for ascending the hill.
“Then you don't have people walking in a sledding lane and [getting] mowed down like a bowling ball,” he said.
Bobadilla is glad the city is reexamining the issue. He wonders how much it would cost to police the area on snow days to make it safe. But if sledding comes back to Trashmore, and if he’s visiting Virginia Beach at the time… he plans to go.
“I'll feel like I'm conquering something,” he said.