Safer too, with the new generation of lightweight, steerable
(even brakable) sleds
If you had a sled when you were growing up, chances are it looked
like the one in the lower left-hand corner. Invented in 1889 by Sam L.
Allen for his granddaughter, the “flyer’ was the only
steerable sled around for nearly 80 years.
Today, a new breed of sleds gives you a much wider choice, at
prices ranging from less than $12 to almost $150. Sleek and often
lightweight, they are safer than toboggans, inner tubes, saucers, and
plastic sheets because they steer. Some even brake to a stop.
There’s still time to buy one for Christmas, if you hurry.
Our report helps you choose.
What caused the proliferation of new designs? In the late 1960s,
the introduction of high-density polyethylene made sleds cheaper and,
since this cold-tolerant plastic is so light, much easier to lug back up
Then, in the 1970s, some Swedish inventors laid three short plastic
skis down, stuck a platform and steering whell on top, and discovered
they had a sled that handled beautifully in all kinds of snow. The wide
skis skim on top of powder and slushy snow, whereas narrow steel runners
dig in. Other sled-ski combinations followed, as did new steering and
Where and when to buy for Christmas: check catalogs, all kinds
We checked every major metropolitan area in the West and found
sleds for sale in a remarkable variety of stores. Most likely to sell
sleds are–in this order– major department stores, toy stores, sporting
goods stores, hardware stores, and ski shops. We even found a shop in
Denver selling used sleds: Grandma’s Toy Haven.
But not all stores have sleds in stock; you may have to order and
wait a week or more. Call ahead to check price and availability; prices
for the same model can be quite different, and sleds tend to sell out
just before Christmas.
You can also order by mail; sleds are advertised in more than a
dozen catalogs nationwide. Department stores with catalog departments
will ship one within 1 to 10 working days of your order, as long as they
have it in stock. Smaller catalog companies vary widely in shipping
You may have a hard time finding the sled on nordic skis pictured
on this page. Because it’s handcrafted by a two-man
Choosing for quality
Our photograph shows the four types of steerable sleds you’re
likely to see in stores and catalogs, plus the one on nordic skis. All
four have holes near the front to hold a rope for pulling back uphill.
Prices are approximate.
In the store, check wood sleds for cracks and splinters. Look over
plastic models for thin spots; they often show when held against the
light. Also see if plastic ones have structural ribs underneath or on
the sides for support. Grooved plastic runners or skis give greater
traction on turns than smooth runners.
Sit-up models often have brakes, but they also have a higher center
of gravity than lie-down sleds, which means less stability on turns.
Also consider whether the sled will fit in your car; some are bulky.
Finding a good place to go sledding
All you need is a gentle slope away from roads, preferably with few
trees or rocks and a flat part at the bottem. National forests allow
sledding, but some don’t encourage it; call ahead. Several ski
resorts have designated areas for sledding; for a list of these, check
The White Book of Ski Areas (Inter-Ski Services, Inc., Box 3635,
Washington, D.C. 20007, 1984; $13 postpaid). Other good sources of
information are chambers of commerce, ski stores, and toy shops in areas
with lots of winter snow.
Photo: Piggyback sledders hurtle down slopes of Mount Shasta,
California, on new sled. He’s lying on a platform, steering with
ski tips order, write to Ski-Sled, Inc., 1106 Fifth St., Redding, Calif.
96002, or call (916) 223-6519.
Photo: Piggyback sledders hurtle down slopes of Mount Shasta, on
new sled. He’s lying on a platform, steering with ski tips
Photo: Sled and skis with a steering wheel, 1979. Tubular steel
and molded plastic; 14 pounds, 46 inches; $44 to $77. Sit upright; pull
handle to brake
Photo: The flyer, 1889. Steel and hardwood: nine models, four
manufacturers: 6 1/2 to 13 pounds, 37 to 60 inches, $15 to $50. To
steer, turn crossbar to flex runners. No brake
Photo: One-piece plastic sled, 1984. Fiber-filled polyethylene; 7
pounds, 42 inches; $25 to $31. Tougher than it looks. To steer, grip
handles to flex sled front. No brake. Grooved skis give traction with
Photo: Plastic sled with handles, 1971. High-density polyethylene;
many models, sizes; 3 to 7 pounds, 32 to 44 inches; $12 to $50. Handles
dig into the snow; pull one to steer, two to brake
Photo: Sled on nordic skis, 1982. Oak with aluminum fittings; 12
to 15 pounds, 24- to 30-inch platform; $133 to $147 (less for kit). Grip
ski tips to steer; push tips together to stop