It has been snowing and you want some high speed fun with a sledge or toboggan. What makes a good sledge? How can you go faster? How do you steer? What are the best things to use as a sledge?
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How does a sledge work?
A sledge works by sliding over the snow, being pulled downhill by the force of gravity. The reason a sledge slides on snow is due to the low friction between the sledge and the snow. Friction makes stops things sliding. Sledges with thin runners, such as wooden sledges, are much better at sliding because the pressure of your weight in a very small area (the runners on the ground instead of the entire bottom of a plastic sledge) melts the snow a bit which creates a very thin layer of water between the runner and the snow. This really reduces the friction, and makes you go much faster. It is the same way that ice skates work. The friction can be reduced further by using ski wax.
Choosing a Sledge or Toboggan
There are a variety of sledges and toboggans available. There are wooden sledges, plastic sledges, and hammerhead plastic sledges.
Wooden sledges come in two main designs. the most common one is one with runners that keep the main deck about a foot above the ground. These types of wooden sledges are great where the snow is deep. The runners cut through the snow down to the more compact snow near the ground.
The second main design for wooden sledges is a flat sheet of wood that curls up at the front. This works very well on compact snow, and can hold several people.
Plastic sledges usually have a flat bottom, or slight ridges to act as runners to keep it going in a straight line. They require compact snow to work. you may have to sit on your plastic sledge and push yourself down the slope several times before the snow is compact enough to get you some speed.
Inflatable Sledges and Airboards
There has been a recent revolution in sledging, and that is the Airboard. An airboard is an inflatable sledge used in a similar way as a bodyboard used for surfing. The airboard is inflatable and has hard ridges on the bottom to keep it sledging in a straight line. You lie down on it on your stomach and hold onto the handles on either side. It is extremely lightweight and easy to carry back up the hill, and you can reach speeds of up to 80mph if the slope is right.
For more information on airboards, read our article and watch amazing videos of extreme downhill airboarding.
What Other Things Can I use to go Sledging and Tobogganing?
There are lots of things you can use as a sledge or toboggan. The obvious choice is a traditional wooden sledge. With high runners, they are great for use in deep snow.
If you have a plastic sledge, you will need to use it on more compact snow. This may take a few runs down the slope to get the snow firm enough to get some decent speed.
You can even get inflatables sledges. But if you can't get hold of a sledge or toboggan, don't worry as there are plenty of other things to use as a sledge.
Wooden skim boards are good for sledging as the curled up front enables you to surf over the snow. The board also takes out some of the bumps on your bottom. Bodyboards do not make good sledges. But if you put them inside an empty compost bag they work a treat.
Other things you can use for sledges are tin trays, canoes, large inner tubes or inflatable rings used in the swimming pool. An inflatable dinghy works very well, but watch out for any sharp things in the snow that could burst it. If you want the real things, then get yourself a snow tube.
Hints and Tips on using Sledges and Toboggans
First you need a hill that is steeper than 30 degrees, and have snow on it.
Whatever sledge you get, you will need to be able to steer it. If you are sitting on your sledge, you can use your feet to steer by digging your heels into the snow on either side of you. Or you can use your hands behind the sledge to steer. There is a misconception that ytou can steer by leaning. In practice you are more likely to fall off your sledge sideways.
The most important thing is stopping. Use both feet to stop by digging your heels into the snow. Make sure you can stop before the bottom of the run. also check that there are no hazards such as fences, barbed wire, roads, water or drops at the bottom of the hill. If you find you cannot stop, bail out before the end by rolling off the back of the sledge.
To make your sledge go faster, you can rub ski wax onto the runners on the bottom of the sledge. The ski wax makes it go faster. Candle wax does not have the same effect.
If you want to browse for the perfect sledge or toboggan for you, look in the Active Outdoors Online Store and select Sledges from activities listed on the right hand side. You may see the sledge you want in the recommended selection of sledges below.
Have fun, and be safe!
Get yourself a sledge now before the shops run out again this year.
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