Downhill Sledding

Downhill Sledding
For many of us, sledding is the first winter sport we ever did. It can be cheap and simple to get started in. All it takes is something slick to sit on and a hill to go down. It is fun for children and adults alike. This is a great family activity in the winter. Good exercise for the whole family is gained on the walk back up the hill to go down the slope again.

Read on to find out about the different types of sleds, their advantages and disadvantages, and how they each are used for your sledding experience.

Makeshift sleds- Want to go sledding, but think your don’t have a sled? Think again! Slick plastic garbage bags can be sat on and will give a fast ride down a snow-covered hill. You can also use flat pieces of cardboard, which add a little more support and go over icy patches fast. Almost any item that is flat or slick that you can sit on can be used as a sled. Inner tubes filled with air make great cushiony sleds. College students have been known to take cafeteria trays and slide downhill.

The advantage of the makeshift sled is that they can usually be found anywhere and on short notice. They are also very inexpensive. The disadvantage is that they are often difficult or impossible to steer. They can also be very unpredictable. A sled crafted for steering and precision will behave the same way each time, allowing the sledder to get to know their craft. Makeshift sleds were not originally designed for this purpose, and are difficult to know and manage.

If you are not sure about investing in a sled, or just don’t have the time or ability to get a sled, this is a great option to get started or try out sledding.

Wooden toboggans – This is the classic style that is made by Flexible Flyer. Other brands are available, as well. Usually crafted out of wood with metal runners, these are some of the pricier sleds, with prices ranging from $80 to $175 for a new sled. A wooden bar across the front is used for steering the sled. The rider can lay down on the sled face first, grabbing a hold of the steering bar to turn. A rider can also tie a rope to the sides of the steering bar, and then sit on the sled and pull on the sides of the rope to steer the sled.

Advantages include speed, the metal runners make this is a slick, fast sled. The steering needs to be done quickly, and may not be suitable for a small child to do on their own. Toboggans are often sturdy enough for more than one person to ride down together. A variety of lengths are available, up to 60” long, which is a great length for a parent and children to ride down a hill together.

Plastic Sleds – These come in a variety of shapes. There is a disk shape that is often sat on with the person going feet first down a hill. Handles are on the sides, which lead people to think they can steer the disk, but they are not really steerable. There is the wedge shaped sled, and the trough shaped sled. Both of which can be sat on to go down feet first, or laid down on and go downhill headfirst.

Advantages of plastic sleds include being very inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. Plastic sleds are designed to go down hills, and you can get to know how they act. The plastic is slick, and will not rust. You won’t have to sand these sleds down and repaint them. The trough shape can also be used to pull a child along over flat ground, great for winter walks and entertaining a small child.

Disadvantages include being impossible to steer and sometimes easily broken. Being left out in really bitter cold temperatures (colder than -20 F), even plastic sleds have been known to become brittle and crack, making them unusable when the temperatures warm up enough that it is safe to play outside again.

Foam sleds- Recent years have seen the development of a soft foam core sled with a slick polyurethane bottom. The sides have plastic handles. Often sold in a variety of bright colors and designs. The rider can sit on these going down feet first, or also by lying down and going face first. Often people try to sit on their knees and go downhill on a sled. The soft foam top makes it easier to do on a foam sled. These sleds are more affordable than the toboggans, ranging in price usually form $25-$50 each. A variety of lengths are available, so you can get a child a sled at a size they can carry and sit on, rather than it always being to short or too long.

Advantages include the cheaper price than a toboggan. If treated well, these sleds seem to last and are not as prone to cracking as the plastic sleds. Although these sleds do not steer as well as toboggans, they do have some steering ability.

Disadvantages include foam not handling abuse well, and they do not steer as well as a toboggan. There are also no sides, so foam sleds often are not good for pulling across flat surfaces.

These are the basic sled types. Have a favorite sled, sledding story, or sledding tip you would like to share? Then go to the Winter Sports forum and share!

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