- Sledding 101
Brief History of Sledding:
The practical use of sleds is ancient and widespread. They were developed in areas with consistent winter snow cover, as vehicles to transport materials and/or people, far more efficiently than wheeled vehicles could in icy and snowy conditions. Early designs included hand-pulled sizes as well as larger dog, horse, or ox drawn versions. Early examples of sleds and sledges were found in the Oseberg Viking ship excavation. The Toboggan sled is also a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada and the people of Ancient Egypt are thought to have used sleds or sledges (on the desert sand and on ramps) extensively for construction.
Modern Snow Sledding:
Today, the generic term sledding refers to traveling down a snowy hill using a sled such as a flexible flyer with wooden slats and metal runners. It is usually done during the winter when there is snow. There are few types of sleds commonly used today: runner sleds, toboggans, saucer disc sleds, and inflatable sleds. Each type has advantages and disadvantages if one is trying to get the most out of a given slope.
The first ride down a hill on a sled is the most important, but most also the most difficult, as it determines the path of the sled for further runs down the hill. It is essential to steer the sled along the most exciting course, perhaps adding twists and turns to make the run down the hill faster or more exciting. Other techniques to improve the ride include turning around, lying on the stomach, or closing both eyes. Running up to a sled and jumping onto it can create additional momentum and improve ride speed. This technique can be referred to as ‘Flopping’. With each course down the hill, the sled's path through the snow can become more icy. Sleds with a greater surface area (anything but runner sleds) are able to make the first runs a great deal easier than the variety of sleds with metal runners. Runner sleds are typically faster once the snow has compacted or turned icy. In the 1880s, Samuel Leeds Allen invented the first steerable runner sled, called the Flexible Flyer. Since that date, the ability to steer the sled away from obstacles has led people to believe it to be more appropriate choice for the safety conscious.