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Do you remember catching speed as you bolted down a snowy hill on your ultra-fast sled? Sledding as a kid, the name of the game was all about speed, wasn’t it?
The races could be intense, and maybe some even resulted in a crash or two (I remember a few bloody noses and teeth lost on sledding days)! Despite the bangs and bruises, sledding was always a great way to make memories in the snow.
Fast forward to being a parent and things are changing a bit. While we want our kids to have great memories and fun, we also would like to avoid blood and trips to the emergency room (I have 4 boys, so I’m all too familiar with both).
To keep the good times rolling, there are a few simple ways to make your sledding days as safe as possible, while still leaving plenty of room for fun. By following these sledding safety tips, you’ll ensure fewer crashes, less bangs and bruises, and even more laughter and fun! Who wouldn’t want that?
Whether it is your first sledding season or you’re a sledding professional, there are some safety tips that everyone should remember.
Know Your Limits for Sledding
Before you get in a crowd of sledding friends, carefully think about what your personal limits are. Most major injuries on sleds happen because limits are being pushed too far. How steep of a hill are you comfortable sledding on? Are you comfortable with jumps AND do you know how to sled over a jump safely? Can you safely sled the way you want to and avoid any obstacles in your way?
Think about all of these questions BEFORE you start sledding with a group, so you can stay within your limits and minimize the risk of injury.
Choosing The Safest Sledding Hills
Before you start your outdoor adventure of sledding, be sure to carefully select an ideal hill to ride. These are a few things to consider when selecting a safe sledding hill.
Stay Clear from Traffic
One of the most important considerations is whether there is any danger from traffic nearby. Many hills that would be great for sledding lead towards busy roads. Always avoid sledding near any streets, and especially if the hill bottoms out to a roadside. Even if the road is far from the base of the hill, on some days when conditions are optimal, it’s possible to sled too quickly and head straight towards the traffic. Take extra precautions to always make sure you’re clear from cars.
Avoid Sledding on Icy Hills
Depending on the weather conditions, hills can become super icy. This is especially the case if the hill is a popular spot with lots of sledders going down. The snow can become packed down and with the right freezing temperatures, the entire slope can turn into a sheet of ice. Will it be fast? Yes. Will it be safe? Probably not. You can lose control more easily and falling out of the sled will probably hurt more when you land on hard ice rather than soft snow. Take each new day of weather conditions into account before you head out sledding.
Sled in Daylight and With Good Visibility
Be mindful of the daylight hours while you’re planning your sledding day. The winter brings longer nights and shorter days, which means you might have to cut your sledding day short as the sun sets. It’s also not ideal to sled when visibility is low. This can happen when it is snowing heavily. If you can’t see, whether it’s from darkness for heavy snowfall, it’s not a safe time to go sledding. You want to make sure you can see the entire hill clearly, so that you avoid any crashes or accidents.
Ensure Runs are Clear from Obstacles
After you’ve checked the safety tips above, the final thing to makes sure your surroundings are free from major obstacles, such as trees, branches, or rocks. These obstacles could become hazardous. Take note of any potentially dangerous obstacles along the hill. If the hill is mostly open and you can give yourself a lot of distance between your sledding and those obstacles, you should be safe to go. If you can remove any obstacles, such as branches, it is a good idea to clear the run. Crashing into anything can hurt or become seriously dangerous, so always ensure your sledding path is totally clear before you begin.
Sledding Safety Everyone Needs To Follow
Once you have your hill picked and all your gear ready, you’re set to go sledding! While you’re on the hill there are some skills to practice that will keep everyone as safe as possible. Here are some of the top sledding skills that you should follow this winter.
Organize the Sledding and Walking Paths for Safety to avoid collisions
Stay organized on the hill and never cross the sledding runs. Make sure everyone knows the set pattern of traffic that ensures people are walking up far away from the sledding runs. Otherwise, walking up the runs can result in crashes. This is the simplest form of sledding safety, so set it up from the beginning and consistently make sure that everyone follows this sledding rule throughout the day.
Sled Feet First Downhill for Maximum Safety
As your sledding, make sure you’re going feet first downhill. It’s also a good idea to stay relatively upright. Going headfirst or sledding on your stomach can become dangerous if you fall out, run into something, or need to steer and control the sled. When you’re sitting with feet first downhill, you’ll be able to quickly adjust and maneuver to avoid injuries and remain in control.
Never Sled Alone
Don’t sled alone. Go with friends and family! Not only is it way more fun to sled with others, but it’s also a safety tip. If there is at least one other person present, you’ll have support in case of an accident.
Learn How to Roll Out of Sleds Before an Accident
Accidents happen. It’s not a big deal if you fall out or tumble from the sled. To minimize injuries when that happens, teach the kids how to roll off the sled just before it crashes. You can practice the roll on small, gentle slopes. If kids can abort the sled in a safe way, then the crash is less likely to cause injury to them. And if the sled happens to run into another person, that person won’t be knocked down quite as hard.
Know How to Stop A Sled for Safety
Finally, and possibly most importantly, make sure everyone knows how to stop the sled! Kids are sometimes so eager to gain speed that they forget all about the stopping part. Each sled will have its own way of slowing down and stopping. Make sure you’re aware of how to control the speed and practice these skills together. It might take a few gentle tumbles to perfect your stopping skills, but it’s well worth it. Being able to control the sled will also give your kids the confidence they need to head out sledding and enjoy it all day long!
Choosing The Safest Sledding Gear
You can easily make your sledding days safer by having the right gear. Here are two tips for choosing the right sledding gear for you.
A Sled that can be Steered or a Sled With Brakes
There are so many different styles of sleds these days. With all the shapes and sizes, there are some sleds that can be more easily steered compared to others. If you want to maximize safety, you can choose a sled that can be steered. Some sleds can be steered using the tow line, and others have built-in mechanisms that help you direct it. In either case, being able to control and maneuver can help riders avoid collisions and stay safer on the hills.
Use Sledding Equipment In Good Condition
A sled that’s in good condition is one of the most important factors to keeping your family safe on the sledding hill. Old sleds or sleds that are poor quality can crack and splinter while sledding, potentially causing injury.
Wear a Winter Sports Helmet for Sledding Safety
Some people might want to consider wearing a winter sports helmet. Just like when you’re skating, skiing, or snowboarding, head injuries are often the most severe. While you might not have seen helmets on the sledding hills before, with the newer and faster sleds on the market, it’s a good idea to take precautions and avoid any head impacts. You can easily use the same helmets you would for any other winter sport activity. It’s a simple step to ensure accidents don’t result in concussions or injuries.