Sledriding Do's and Don'ts
Inside the Outdoors, January
04, 2013

There are two sayings in life that, more or less, make sense. First, “The older one gets, the wiser he becomes,” and, “A little bit of risk makes things more fun.”

The first is understood as a part of human nature. The second falls under the category of life’s challenges. We have all taken risks or we wouldn’t be in the position we are today.

Sledding is no exception. A matter of fact, any winter sport that one has done for the first time is usually done so with some hesitation. If someone gets the feel of a challenge and finds he can excel in it, certain attempts are made to master an achievement.

All winter sports are accomplished this way. Tobogganing, skiing and sledding all have risk factors. Youth don’t think about as much as adults may, but that’s part of maturing.

Let’s look at the do’s connecting with sledding as provided by

Choose a sled that is easy to control. That way there will be no anxiety as to whether one may avoid sudden obstacles that are not seen from heights up the hill. That applies to toboggans as well.

Second, select a hill with a gentle slope, with plenty of room to stop. Unfamiliar with how sleds may be built today, we used to drag our feet some 50 years ago. I can only imagine, there may be some slowing device built in whereby one would be able to grab or push wood (A handle, preferably) allowing the end to drag on the surface.

Third, wear a helmet. Best advice that seems to be relatively new. I use the word “relatively,” because in my day, something like that was unheard of.

Fourth, keep one’s hands, arms and legs inside the sled at all times. This is where the risk factor comes in. Sliding our hands in the snow or waving our arms were second nature to the sport, so I thought.

And fifth, wait until the path is clear of other people before sliding down a hill. That becomes difficult at times, particularly if one is sledding on slopes crowded with enthusiasts. Never the less, to be safe, all precautions should be taken to avoid collisions that may lead to injuries of others.

As for the don’ts, for example, try not to navigate a hill with too many hills or trees in one’s path or at the bottom. I remember tobogganing with a group of fellows whereby all but one fell off the board speeding down a hill. The fellow sitting directly in the front was having so much snow tossed into his face that he couldn't see in which direction he was going. He ended up slamming into a tree. Immediately thereafter, he was transported to a hospital where he had to have his spleen removed.

So play it safe. Remember, the guy up front on this type of equipment will get plastered with snow. His passengers will be shielded by the subsequent seating arrangement.

With a design of a sled, steel runners will cut into the snow so none of the white stuff will be projected upward.

If snow jumps are going to be built, consider the foreground, particularly others that may be pulling their units or sledding into one’s downward path. Try to avoid losing control of one’s sled after the downward motion has “propelled” the sled off the ground. What may be fun at first may yield disasterous results. “Is the risk worth it?” one may ask.

The idea of overloading the sled with too many people may get the unit down the hill faster, but may yield injuries to unsuspecting riders especially if the risk hasn’t been thought through. Better to keep it to maybe two or three individuals depending on the length of the sled.

How many times has one laid down head first on the sled to streamline ones propelling downhill. We always did go faster, but was safety taken into consideration. Yes, the risk factor was there. But how many times did we run into a problem? Never, to my recollection. But it only takes one mishap, especially not wearing a helmet with possibly injuries of undisclosed nature resulting.

There may be other safety precautions one may take, but these are just some of the basics. Minimize risks, play it safe and there will be plenty of fun to be had, take my word for it!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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