Sunday, February 22, 2015

Best Tips for a Fun Day on the Sledding Hill

It has been a mild winter until Mother Nature brought us more than 2 feet of snow and a few snow days off from work and school to go along with it this month.  Of course rather than stay huddled up in the house our family bundled up and traversed over to the neighborhood park for some sledding fun.  Here are a few tips to make sure your day out on the snowy slopes are a blast and not a bust:

 Know the Temperature Before You Go

The ideal temperature is 29 to 30 degrees - you really don't want to sled on ice or snow but rather water.  Yes WATER!!!  At that temperature the friction from your sled should melt the snow to create a thin film of water on which to sail down the hill.  This will help you get the fastest speeds out of your sled.

Don't believe me?  Think of ice skaters.  They place their weight on the blades of a skate which creates pressure on ice briefly melting its surface so the skater can move quickly over a thin layer of water which is much smoother than the ice itself.  Wow you just have to love physics!

When it comes to snow, you aren't looking for fluffy or grainy but rather flaky.  The large flakes that originate when it snows at temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees compacts the best for sledding.

Make sure before you go out that you check both the temperature and wind chill factor.  Be cautious of hypothermia and frostbite that can come on quickly and without a lot of warning in the cold.  Kids should always be properly dressed to avoid skin contact with snow and frigid air.  If you see a child shivering that means it is time to come inside out of the cold to warm up.  CLICK HERE for a ton of useful information regarding cold weather injuries that impact children from aboutkidshealth.

Know Your Hill

While a little friction will help your slide down the hill, gravity is what really gets you going.  So the steepness of the hill has the biggest impact on how fast you can get racing down it.

Being familiar with a hill's surroundings in advance will be a great help in knowing of obstacles and hazards to avoid that may be hidden by snow until some unfortunate sledder crashes into them.  Knowing in advance where a ditch, tree stump, pond, or fire hydrant may be located is a proactive way to avoid a problem later.  We go sledding on a hill at a local park that we also frequent during the summer so that we're pretty familiar with the landscape and surrounding even when everything is covered in snow.

A used path provides the best path.  Riders who take turns and share space will have the best compacted snow for a smooth, fast ride down the hill.  Don't walk back up the hill on your sledding path as you want to keep the track smooth and not interfere with oncoming sledders (which is a concept I just can't seem to get to stick in my son's head).

Know your preferred hill in advance also helps know what type of sled is the best to bring with you.  Snow discs and inflatable tubes are best for wide open lazy slopped surfaces because you can't control their direction and these have a tendency to fly up in the air when hitting bumps.  For steeper surfaces and more confined spaces traditional sled designs and toboggans are more well suited.  Never using a plastic sheet, cardboard box or cafeteria tray as a make shift sled is a common warning you'll get from health care professionals when it comes to sledding.

Safety First

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics more than 20,000 kids per year end up in the emergency room with injuries from sledding each year.  No one wants to dampen a good time with a visit to an emergency room so make sure to make safety a priority when on the sledding hill.  While sledding down a hill head first may be a thrill, that is the number one no-no pediatricians have when they warn about dangers associated with sledding.  Sled with feet forward so if a collision occurs a head injury is less likely.  Pediatricians also recommend children under 5 should ride with an adult.

Conduct a walk through of the landing area before kids start sledding into it to make sure there aren't any hidden hazards like fallen tree branches, trash, fences or any other obstacle that could be hidden under the snow and cause a collision.

Make sure kids know not to crash into one another and to avoid walking or sledding into the path of others whether going up or down the hill.  Insuring children know how to ditch a sled if they believe they are going to collide with another sled or an obstacle like a tree is also important.  The best way to get off is to roll off sideways and let the sled keep going versus trying to jump out or stop the sled with hands or feet.

Parental supervision and PARTICIPATION is always important!

Don't hide from winter, embrace it! Grab a sled and go have some fun in the snowy weather!


  1. We love sledding! We've been several times this year and we have a great hill over at Lac St Clair Metro Beach that we use. Good tips!

  2. Adorable! Hopefully we wont have too many more weekends to do this. :)