The procession of snowstorm after snowstorm this month has left many longing for warmer spring days.
The seemingly endless driveways to shovel and icy walkways may cloud your view of the perfect family activity. If you have been looking for a break from the everyday winter doldrums, let us not forget that with the first accu-mulating flakes of snow comes the magical season of sledding.
Spending a perfect winter day sledding down a neighborhood hillside until your cheeks and nose turned red can’t be beat. Then, upon your return home, you are greeted at the door by a cozy cup of hot cocoa, making for a near perfect winter’s day.
To make this snow filled daydream a reality, first you will need the right sled, gear and snow covered hill.
There are four types of sleds most commonly used for recreational sledding, you just need to select the right one to fit your needs.
A Sledge, which is made to slide across a snowy surface on runners, is the first snow sled that comes to mind when one thinks of a traditional winter sled. They come in two types, large and small.
The large sledge can accommodate many passengers and is typically drawn by horses or dogs.
The smaller version is more like the design of the iconic Flexible Flyer sled.
Flexible Flyer has been making sleds in the same style since 1889, and over the last century has become a staple winter ride for most New Englanders. Because of its sound construction, the Flexible Flyer is often handed down from generation to generation.
The reason the FF has endured the test of time is simple, it has a well constructed design that works! This classic design has proven to be fast and sturdy, and is made to “grow up with” not “grow out of,” as the design works well for both children and adults.
Made to hold one to two people, it can easily be steered by hand, foot, or pull rope. Because of the multi-steering ability, it allows the rider to lie on their back, stomach, or sit up and still have the ability to control the sled.
Sledges of this type are usually made from durable wood and metal, and weigh about 15lbs. This is an important factor to keep in mind when you have to pull the sled back up the hill several times.
This traditional sledge style performs best on pre-packed snow paths for optimum speed and control, but will work well in most snow conditions.
Toboggans are also popular modes of sledding transportation for families as they come in large models suitable for multiple riders.
Traditional toboggans are made of wood slats with curved fronts, but in recent years they have been slightly redesigned.
Modern day toboggans are still available in wood but also come in plastic or inflatable styles.
Besides the ability to hold multiple passengers, toboggans are popular because they offer the most control over direction simply by shifting the passengers weight from side to side. They are also designed with a pull rope for easy transport uphill and perform well in most snow conditions.
The Saucer sled is always a favorite, and in the right snow conditions, can reach impressive sledding speeds. This classic single passenger disc design is made from metal or high impact plastic construction featuring handles that can be used for both steering downhill and to carry uphill. Keep in mind that the steering is not ideal, so it is not the best choice for rough terrain or slopes with many obstacles.
Snow Tubes have become a popular choice in recent years for a fun and fast sledding experience.
Because they are inflatable, they are more comfortable to ride on than other types of snow sleds. This also makes them significantly lighter than traditional sleds, allowing for an easier climb back up the sledding hill.
Most snow tubes have a donut-shape with elevated edges to give stability over slopes, and are made from vinyl with side handles that provide a good grip for maintaining proper stability and for ease to carry. Be warned that vinyl snow tubes compromise durability for speed and are not recommended for rugged terrain or ice. Snow tubes tend to perform best in deep snow and open hills.
Once you have picked the perfect sled for your family’s needs, you need to find a good sledding hill.
Fortunately our area has an abundance of areas suitable for sledding.
Just to name a few, you can try Buzzell Senior Center at 15 School St. in Wilmington, Trull Brook Golf Course, 170 River Road in Tewksbury or Shedd Park, 453 Rogers St. in Lowell.
If you are looking for a more professional groomed snow tubing hill, some of the local ski areas like Nashoba Valley in Westford or Bradford Hill in Haverhill offer snow tubing, but there is a cost, and reservations are required.
As far as gear is concerned, just use common sense. Dress in layers, wearing water resistant ski pants and jackets for your outer layers. Make sure to wear hats and gloves, warm socks, and waterproof boots.
This winter, don’t curse the snow, but embrace it! When you plan accordingly, a fun day in the snow is sure to change your outlook on winter, at least until the next time you have to shovel the driveway!