Introduction: The Art of Sledding

Picture of The Art of Sledding

Anyone can put their legs through a trash bag or sit on a cafeteria tray and slide downhill. However, advanced sledding is an art. Like many other Alaskans sledding has always been my passion. Before I could walk my father would pull me behind him as he cross country skied. Nine months a year, every morning, for ten years I sled to the bus stop. Although I have gone faster, in a controlled road test I was clocked at over 45 mph.


Step 1: Choosing a Sled

Picture of Choosing a Sled

The fastest, most reliable, versatile sleds on the market are formed plastic sleds like the one pictured. Paris and Torpedo are the leading brands and each carry models that cost under $15. A good sled will last several months (as long as there isn’t too much gravel on the roads).

Old timers are partial to metal runner sleds such as Flexible Flyers. Although these sleds may be slightly faster on glare ice they are easily out performed in all other conditions. Runner sleds are also considerably more dangerous: sharp runners, wood slats crack under stress, runners bend and can buckle when stopping abruptly, runner sleds spark and jerk when they encounter rocks, they require upkeep and are expensive.

First timers are often attracted to sleds with plastic runners and toy steering wheels. Despite the illusion of control, these sleds have little to no steering capability, are prone to flipping, and are therefore very dangerous at speeds greater than 10 mph.


Step 2: Hand Protection

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It is important that your hands are well protected. My favorites are insulated thick leather gloves. Although gloves are not as warm as mittens they offer more dexterity. Sorry vegans, but synthetic materials are rarely (if ever) as durable as old-fashioned cowhide. Leather gloves wear out first at the seams, these gloves one large piece of leather across the palm and are likely to last longer than a divided palm. Also the fabric below the cuff allows for the glove to be tucked into the sleeve of a jacket, conserving warmth.


Step 3: Cleaning

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Brush off the snow and ice that has collected on the bottom of your sled before you start sledding. Removing buildup reduces friction.


Step 4: Running Start

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Although frowned upon in some races the running start is undoubtedly the fastest way to start moving. Angle the sled across your body so that you can sprint. Once you are at full tilt straighten the sled out in front of you and gracefully belly flop onto it.


Step 5: Pump

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Once you have landed, use your arms to pull you along and garner more speed. The motion is similar to breast stroke, and will make you look something like a turtle crawling across the beach.


Step 6: The Full Tuck

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There is no faster sledding position than the full tuck; belly down in the sled, feet off the ground, arms tucked in the small of your back. Many people prefer to sit on their knees or bottom, but both positions are aerodynamically inferior. Although going head first may appear more dangerous, I find that I have excellent control.


Step 7: Turning

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To turn drag your hand in the snow. In this image I am simply dragging my palm. A more aggressive turn can be made by putting all of your body weight on one fist. Note that my hands are to my sides and not in front of my face. This allows me to switch rapidly from the full tuck to turning. Additionally, if my hands were in front of my head they would shoot snow into my eyes and could get pulled under the sled.


Step 8: Brace for Impact.

Picture of Brace for Impact.

When sledding over rough terrain, or going off jumps, brace for impact. I am arching my back so that my weight is on my hands and knees. This offers some protection to head, chest and waist. Additionally, I am gripping the sled with both hands to prevent it from slipping out from underneath me.


Step 9: Simple Stop

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Simply turn off the trail into deeper snow.

Note: this stop is most useful at slow speeds in familiar terrain. It can also be combined with dragging both hands and feet to stop faster. This method can be very useful when avoiding traffic.


Step 10: The Hockey Stop

Picture of The Hockey Stop

A very aggressive turn can be turned into a hockey stop. By immediately turning your body perpendicular to the slope you can stop rapidly. The hand that is not creating the turn can be used to hold the sled, this will keep the sled from coming out from underneath you, and may prevent flipping. The hockey stop takes some practice.


Step 11: The Flip Stop

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Simply roll over on to your back.


Step 12: Night Sledding

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1. Walk or dive up the trail before going down. Make sure there are no downed trees or hazards. Mentally chart the turns.

2. Block both the bottom and top of the run. Always watch for head lights, always give cars the right of way.

3. Do not use artificial illumination! Bright lights will dull your senses and keep you from seeing anything farther than a few feet in front of you. Let your eyes adjust to the light and if you have good vision, and eat lots of carrots you shouldn't have any problems. Snow does a good job of reflecting ambient light. (Artificial illumination was required to take the photographs.)

4. Because of perspective you should perceive the path narrowing in front of you. The snowy trail usually appears like a long pale triangle pointing down hill, aim for the middle of the triangle. Be aware of the trees which should appear to be a black stripe to either side of the trail, as well as the sky which will also form a long luminous triangle pointing downhill.
When the tip of the triangle curves out of sight, be prepared for a turn. If the triangle disappears or there seems to be a wall of trees in front of you, turn abruptly.

5. Feel the trail, use your hands to feel the depth of the snow. The snow will be shallowest in the center of the trail (or the ruts in the road), and deeper on the edges. As long as the snow is shallow you should be fine.

6. Listen to the sled. The sled will rattle less in the deep snow, and will make quite a bit of noise on hard pack and ice. If the sled suddenly goes silent you are probably veering off the trail and headed for disaster.

7. Feel your speed, the sled will move fastest in the ruts, and slowest on the trails edges. As long as you are accelerating you should be fine, worry if you start to decelerate rapidly.

8. Be prudent: It is better to loose the race and live to race another day. Although I do not personally know anyone who has died sledding, I know several people who have broken their arms and legs.




SEKTHEBOSS (author)2016-01-08

I can't wait to try this out am going later today!

jesse.hensel (author)SEKTHEBOSS2016-01-09

Have fun!

jesse.hensel (author)2013-12-17

These sleds are available locally in Fairbanks, Alaska, at hardware and general stores.

heetaw (author)2013-12-15

Where did you get this sled? I've been looking for another one for awhile, but I haven't been able to find one.

Tom 7 (author)2012-09-01

a good way to break your neck.

lmb1982 (author)2012-08-21

checkk this guys out....

home made sled

tobogganist (author)2012-01-31

Nice. You can check out for a map of local hills, and also add hills to the map for others to locate and enjoy as well. Many sleds will thank you! :)

then (author)2009-04-23

a fun thing to do is to use an old plastic kiddy pool (like the one shown), put a lot of freinds in it and then push it down the hill

led235 (author)then2010-01-08

 ^^^^^^THIS kiddie pool idea looks fun^^

daredevil499 (author)led2352011-12-29

I agree

andreblue (author)led2352010-01-22

they have this nice winter park in quebec with a kiddie pool like design hill but safer and u spin round and round and round

then (author)andreblue2011-07-08

indeed quite fun

Plo Koon (author)then2011-12-28


vincent7520 (author)2011-12-28

yes !
but … is it art ???…

; D ; D

homebowyerboy (author)2008-02-04

there is also no better way to have the wind knocked out of you if you go over a bump bigger than about 2 inches high at any considerable speed...

clayball97 (author)homebowyerboy2010-02-06

not true i have a 2 foot ramp that i go over like that and not once got the wind knocked out of me

he said bump, not ramp...

yeah, a bump is non intentional.

clax1227 (author)2011-11-28

You should definitely use this method with the zipfy mini sled, i saw a video where someone achieved 80 mph after they sprayed packed snow with a fine mist so they got a layer of ice, hope this helps ~ Clax

dcoman (author)2011-06-30

I have another style :D

Jedrokivich (author)2011-02-07

btw, the notion that eating carrots to improve your eyesight is false. Aparently it was started in WW2 by the British to explain why they could always find German aircraft (it was actually radar).

Bindlestiff (author)Jedrokivich2011-02-11

au contraire

Jedrokivich (author)Bindlestiff2011-02-11

Well, it's on the internet, so it must be true.

Also, she said that carrots "prevent decreasing vision."

Bindlestiff (author)Jedrokivich2011-02-11

She also said that "most experts agree that carrots make your vision better". Also, most everyone's vision decreases with age, so if something prevents vision from getting worse, that is equivalent to making it better than it would have been otherwise.

Jedx, you seem to be suggesting that the fact that I cited a website makes it NOT true, but it is possible to do good research online.

Would it be more impressive if I scanned a book and posted it here? Nowadays both scholarly and non-scholarly information is available on the internet and you can't discredit sources just because they are online. It depends on the source. Some are credible and some aren't.

I don't know where you heard the WWII thing. Can I assume it was not an online source since you seem to not regard those as valid?

Maybe you're referring to an article on I'm not saying that snopes is wrong, but they don't give any references for the WWII explanation. They do give one reference to a CDC article, but that states that carrots are necessary for healthy vision. Usually snopes does their research but you should always be suspicious when an article just tells a story and doesn't back it up with anything. Personally I think consulting a doctor (as the writer in my link did) is more reliable than an urban legends reference page.

Anyway, sledding...

Jedrokivich (author)Bindlestiff2011-02-11

This seems to be a large internet debate, for sure.
The theory that carrots improve vision is creditable because of thier Vitamin A, I grant you that. However, many things have vitamin A, not just carrots. I read about the WW2 thing in Reader's Digest, in a common misconceptions article. Now, however, I checked some recent sites and Reader's Digest has apperently changed their tune, and agree with you. Thanks for the info, though.

clayball97 (author)2010-02-06

you didnt post anything on going into prickly bushes

drissel (author)clayball972011-01-30

Don't do that!

blodefood (author)2010-01-30

I think "sledding" is mainly an American term.  Many in Canada just call it tobogganing.  By the way, your first picture is actually an Olympic sport called "Skeleton" where athletes reach a speed of about 100 km.  This of course is a tamer version.  Your constant cautions to be careful are very good.

finnrambo (author)blodefood2010-05-16

i find in canada very few call it tobogganing some dont know what tobogganing is I think sledding is more popular of a name in canada now, I might just live in an odd district (vancouver) though your right skeleton is an untame sport

I call it both sledding and tobogganing depending what comes into my head first, by the way, im from vancouver too

have you heade up to the whistler track? idk if its open to the public just yet.....

yes, but i didnt go on it

do they even let people go on it? now that i thik about it they probably dont want average joe's going on the fastest track in the world

there are some tracks you can, probaly not this one

pogoman12345 (author)2009-12-12

i like the torpedo its pretty tough but my favorite kinda sled i an old fashion metal saucer, they can get some real speed if you wax em

ever try Armor All?

AlternateLives (author)2011-01-11

One of my favorite sledding experiences was snow tubing on a snowboard terrain park. getting 7 ft of air on a tube is awesome, and is relatively safer than a sled because the tube absorbs most of the impact.

meppman (author)2008-08-03

i went off a jump once and the sled FLEW from under me when i was holding on any suggestion's on stopping that

I know this was years ago, but if you are still wondering, get a mad river rocket sled! they are the coolest sleds out there. I have gone a good 10+ft in the air and it was great. you are strapped to the sled.

Imptheshrimp (author)meppman2008-11-12

not much can stop it from coming out from under you. Even sleds with ropes have this problem. i'm pretty sure circular sleds are the best at keeping them from coming out.

[corosive] (author)2010-11-01

but they spin around in circles when you ride them, and you have to sit down. i say duct tape the sled to your hands or your whole body.

finnrambo (author)2010-05-16

why cant you just got to the lake placid,calgary or vancouver sliding centres and try bobsleigh luge or skeleton

schoonovermr (author)2010-02-12

i made a ramp about 4 inches and got air. pretty awesome

clayball97 (author)2010-02-06

the sleds that are like a surfboard do really well they also can go over a ramp the plastic ones cant

Foehammer358 (author)2009-09-27

my bro and i once went out toa sledding hill (we live in Quebec)...There was a huge jump at the end, and i mean HUGE.... like 3 feet high... we had circular sleds, and he dared me to jump it. did ,"but under 1 condition : if i make it, you have to do it too." i made it. from the bottom of the hill (about 100 feet away) i heard him scream F*CK!.... so he went down, and at the last second, i lifted up my sled just like a shield.Good move. He ran into me,head first.VERY nearly peed my pants.

andreblue (author)Foehammer3582010-01-22

ever gone off a five foot one cause you realy fly and my sled went of it a few times but at my house a small piece of ice popped it

Foehammer358 (author)andreblue2010-01-30

'course, but when you have a huge freaking sledding hill less than a mile away from your house, you dont bother sledding down a five foot one.

andreblue (author)Foehammer3582010-01-30

i meant the jump was 5 feet

Foehammer358 (author)andreblue2010-01-30

O. in that case, yes, i have.first time i was about 8. i went OMG I'M FLYING!!! for a secd and then started falling,bitting mai tongue on landing. good times....

andreblue (author)Foehammer3582010-01-31

i went off it like five times it was fun

About This Instructable




Bio: Perhaps I am the heretical harbinger of the New Archaic, perhaps I just like wood.
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