In my opinion, every kid needs a sled. If you live anywhere near snow and you have just a bit of geographic relief, your kid need a sled.
Sledding for me is wrapped up in the nostalgic glow of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, where Almanzo and his siblings would build their own sleds, hand carve the runners, fly through the snowy drifts and return home to their warm Upstate New York home to be greeted by their mother offering steaming cups of cider and maple candy. That, and sheer terror.
When I was a kid, our local sledding hill was a rocky, steep slope near our school. Known as Potato Chip Hill, it offered a brutal ride, made all the more terrifying by its run-out, which ended in an empty, cement-lined irrigation ditch. Get too much speed and forget to turn and you went over the edge and into the abyss.
On snowy days, our parents would bundle us up and trundle us down there, letting us fly, bounce and crash at will. We would meet up with other families, each pulling their sleds. The parents would gather together to chat and “supervise” while we kids trudged up the hill and flew back down, over and over again.
The sleds we had then were sturdy, tough and formidable. There were Flexible Flyers with sharp metal runners that could either knock you cold if you crashed and the wooden sled conked you on the head, or slice your cheek if you happened to be unlucky enough to take a runner to the face. If you were a girl, a slice to the cheek was tragic and you’d be rushed off to the emergency room to avoid lifelong disfigurement. If you were a boy, your parents would dust you off, find an old kleenex in someone’s pocket and send you back up the hill for another run.
Then there were the wooden toboggans, curved up at the front, with enough length to hold an entire elementary school class, crammed one behind the other, squeezing each other around the waist and holding on for dear life. A toboggan crash resulted in a tangled jumble of body parts with arms and legs protruding at odd angles and tears for whomever ended up on the bottom. Good stuff!
When my boys began sledding we quickly learned that times had changed. First of all, it turned out that Potato Chip Hill was on private land and the owners really didn’t want sledders cracking their heads open and then suing for damages. We have a couple of good hills behind our house that we could use, but keeping it all in the family just wasn’t the same. The most popular public place to sled was now at our neighborhood school. So off we went, pulling our plastic sled.
Yes, plastic. Nothing hand-carved, nothing sharp, nothing hard that could bonk anyone on the head. And…nothing sturdy. We went through a blue sled, a red sled and finally a “super-tough” green toboggan sled that only lasted six runs on a beautiful Christmas morning and caused a crisis of confidence in the manufacturing ability of Santa’s elves and their quality-control measures.
Simply put, these plastic sleds would crack, tear and crush. The tables had turned. Where we kids used to get cracked, torn and crushed by our sturdy wooden sleds, now our kids were beating up their equipment. And looking at the frequency of sled structural failure versus the frequency of injury back in the day, I have to say that the casualty rate seems higher for sleds than it ever did for kids.
Tired of buying plastic and then trying to recycle the broken plastic, we finally decided to find a classic wooden sled for our boys.
After casting about a bit, we found Mountain Boy Sledworks. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Mountain Boy gave us our choice of handcrafted, wooden Flyers, toboggans, kick sleds and more. We went for a Flyer model. We’ve had this sled for four years now and while it looks a bit beat-up (as it should…that means it is well-loved and well-used), we see no reason why it can’t last for 40 more years.
And, 40 more years it may get to last. You see last year, on the first snow day of the school year, we went sledding. Well, we tried to go sledding. My then 13-year old son was not into the idea, but I drug him along and he sat on the sidelines. Without his favorite sledding partner, the fun didn’t last too long for my younger guy.
We only sledded one day last winter. We got busy with skiing and also realized that we need to find a more challenging sledding hill. This winter, I have no idea how much sledding we’ll do, if any. But currently in use or not, our wooden Mountain Boy sled will retain its place of honor in our garage — waiting patiently for the next generation. We certainly couldn’t and wouldn’t do that with plastic.
Mountain Boy has been gracious to donate two wooden sled Christmas ornaments as a giveaway to Brave Ski Mom readers. Mountain Boy will personalize each ornament with an engraved name. If you would like a chance to win, please leave your name as a comment on this post. The random drawing will be on Monday, December 6 at 10 a.m. Winners will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond.
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