by Craig Blake
Nothing is quite as enjoyable as gliding to the bottom of a snowy hill on some brand-new sleds, no exceptions. Sleds range from simple and inexpensive to fancy and pricey, but most hills are free, and what kid or adult doesn't enjoy an evening of sledding? Winter sports for the whole family are a great way to include your kids in the winter fun. Learn how to buy snow sleds that you and your kids can enjoy.
Age recommendations: Every snow sled and toboggan comes with an age recommendation. Following these recommendations will help you select the perfect sled for your child. Complicated sleds are best left for older children or adults, while a simple, kid-safe sled will work for younger children. Since most injuries happen to 10 to 14-year-old boys and 5 to 9-year-old girls, make sure the sled you buy for them is classified for the right age group.
Weight capacity: The next concern on your list is the weight capacity of the sled. Weight is especially important with toboggans, but if you've loaded too many people on a disc sled, there will be problems. If you opt for a toboggan, look for metal or wooden toboggans that have high weight capacity and easy steering if you plan to sled as a family. If you have many kids that will all want to climb on whichever sled you buy, remember that the more weight on a sled, the faster that sled will go. If you have multiple kids, purchase multiple sleds. If you are using snow tubes, be careful not to put so many kids on one tube that it will pop.
Material: Snow sleds can be made from many different materials. The materials used most are vinyl, plastic, wood, metal and foam. Saucers and other fast, light sleds are usually made from plastic or foam, and lighter weight sleds are less likely to cause injury. Wood and metal are often used in larger snow sleds and toboggans. Metal and wood offer durable construction and increased stability. Snow tubes and sleds that are inflatable are usually made from vinyl, which is inexpensive but not as safe, especially on hills or areas where there are rocks that might rip the sled or bumps and jumps that will cause the sled rider to bounce off, usually painfully.
Safety: Since sledding is mainly a children's sport, it is important to buy for safety. This means following age recommendations and weight capacities, as well as paying attention to sled types and materials. Select a sled or toboggan that is appropriate for the child's age and size.
Types of sleds: Although sledding sounds like a simple sport, there are many different kinds of snow sleds to choose from. Your choice of sled affects speed, control, weight and safety. Remember that heavier sleds are a pain to drag uphill, but they offer more control. Lighter snow sleds may be easier to carry but have little to no control, and the ride down the hill can become quite wild.
Toboggans: Toboggans can be suitable for younger or older children, depending on the model. Plastic is light but offers little control. Runners provide greater control, but the best combination of control and portability comes from a toboggan with a steering wheel.
Sleds: The foam and plastic snow sleds will be the lightest and fastest, as well as the least expensive, but they offer little control. Wooden sleds with metal runners have control but are heavier to drag back uphill.
Saucers: The ultimate in sledding equipment that is fast, uncontrollable and the best wild ride downhill is a saucer. They are lightweight, and you can run them uphill pretty quickly. Saucers are best for older children and you daring adults.
Steerable sleds: These snow sleds give much more control than other snow sleds, especially saucers, but they take time getting used to. For the experienced, these snow sleds are a great combination of speed, control and lightweight hauling.
Kick sleds: A kick sled is more like a bike for winter. They are mounted in runners, allowing the user to ride with one foot and kick with the other, like a scooter or skateboard. They can be used on slopes and flat surfaces.
Snow tubes: A snow tube is, basically, just a large inner tube. They can be less safe than other sledding toys due to the tendency of a tube to bounce and kids to fall out of the hole in the middle. Snow tubes can usually fit more than one person.
Bundle up: The key element of any winter sport is snow. As you're sledding down a hill, with snow flying in your face, you'll wonder why you didn't wear some warm winter apparel, such as snow pants and gloves that will keep you warm while having fun in the snow.