If you haven’t gone sledding lately, stop reading and head out. Right now! Zipping down a hill on a plastic board will give you the cheapest thrill to share with your kids next to throwing snowballs. I love to speed down a hill with my arms wrapped around one of my children, the memory of which I will treasure for a lifetime. They are growing so fast that all too soon they’ll be heading to the hill without me.
Sleds are a thrill on a hill but you can also use them on level ground. Children, new walkers, and babies love being pulled in sleds. Who wouldn’t? When my daughter was little, I pulled her to preschool while I cross-country skied. This form of transport was inspired by one of my fondest memories with my father. He pulled me on a sled to the corner store as he skied. The candy bar we shared there was not nearly as sweet as the love I felt being pulled behind my father in the snow-quieted neighborhood. I only remember it happening once, but I am determined to give the experience to my children again and again, with hopes that they will carry the fond memory into their adult lives.
There are a few things I know to be true about sledding.
Fun is proportional to group size. You can have races, link arms and try to reach the bottom together, or make one long train. How many ways are there to ride a sled? A big hill packed with sledders is a brainstorming session in snow. The larger the crowd of kids, the wider variety of techniques and games you’ll see. The more the merrier.
Bigger hills are better. Although little children prefer smaller hills. They can make do at the bottom of a big one, and even piles of snow by the driveway can work.
You can’t outgrow a sled. Your kids will outgrow any number of skates, skis, and snow pants, but they will never grow out of their sleds, and neither will you. Sleds come in different sizes, but even the smallest sleds work for everyone. But having a sled that holds more than one rider opens up many possibilities.
Sharing sleds is part of the culture of many hills. Kids we’ve never met before think nothing of asking, “May we please borrow your sled?” People even offer up their sleds unprompted, as one woman did for me with her giant inner tube. I’m still kicking myself for turning her down.
Bundle up! Although you’ll certainly work up a sweat trudging back up the hill each time, catching a chill will cut short a great time. Throw an extra neck warmer in your pocket for when your son face-plants after an absurd stunt and bursts into tears.
(photo credit to Deirdre Confar)
Pack granola bars. Prevent bonking.
If you’re in the market for a sled, I recommend a new design we’ve been using that is made of a thick slab of flexible foam with handles on the sides. It slides effortlessly over all kinds of snow, can accommodate more than one rider, and its soft foam material absorbs a lot of shock from bumps and chunks of ice. (The material is 4-5 cm thick, compared to 1 cm of our other foam sled.) My son prefers it because in distance races it travels the farthest, my daughter selects it because it is the fastest, and my tush demands the shock absorption.
Some awesome sleds:
(photo credit Amy Priestley-Roy)
A great sled is wonderful, but you don’t need one to have a wonderful time. You can slide downhill over snow on just about anything. The kids at the Boston public school where I taught years ago used cardboard boxes for heaven’s sake. And they had a supremely good time. A friend of mine uses an air mattress! Whether you use a cafeteria tray or a 6-person toboggan, you’re bound to have a memorable time.