Easy sledding Essay

Easy sledding 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 lookedlike the one in the lower left-hand corner. Invented in 1889 by Sam L.Allen for his granddaughter, the “flyer’ was the onlysteerable sled around for nearly 80 years. Today, a new breed of sleds gives you a much wider choice, atprices ranging from less than $12 to almost $150. Sleek and oftenlightweight, they are safer than toboggans, inner tubes, saucers, andplastic 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 upthe hill. Then, in the 1970s, some Swedish inventors laid three short plasticskis down, stuck a platform and steering whell on top, and discoveredthey had a sled that handled beautifully in all kinds of snow. The wideskis skim on top of powder and slushy snow, whereas narrow steel runnersdig in. Other sled-ski combinations followed, as did new steering andbraking systems. Where and when to buy for Christmas: check catalogs, all kindsof stores We checked every major metropolitan area in the West and foundsleds for sale in a remarkable variety of stores.

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Most likely to sellsleds are–in this order– major department stores, toy stores, sportinggoods stores, hardware stores, and ski shops. We even found a shop inDenver selling used sleds: Grandma’s Toy Haven. But not all stores have sleds in stock; you may have to order andwait a week or more. Call ahead to check price and availability; pricesfor the same model can be quite different, and sleds tend to sell outjust before Christmas. You can also order by mail; sleds are advertised in more than adozen catalogs nationwide.

Department stores with catalog departmentswill ship one within 1 to 10 working days of your order, as long as theyhave it in stock. Smaller catalog companies vary widely in shippingtime. You may have a hard time finding the sled on nordic skis picturedon this page. Because it’s handcrafted by a two-man Choosing for quality Our photograph shows the four types of steerable sleds you’relikely to see in stores and catalogs, plus the one on nordic skis.

Allfour 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 overplastic models for thin spots; they often show when held against thelight.

Also see if plastic ones have structural ribs underneath or onthe sides for support. Grooved plastic runners or skis give greatertraction on turns than smooth runners. Sit-up models often have brakes, but they also have a higher centerof 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 fewtrees or rocks and a flat part at the bottem. National forests allowsledding, but some don’t encourage it; call ahead. Several skiresorts have designated areas for sledding; for a list of these, checkThe White Book of Ski Areas (Inter-Ski Services, Inc.

, Box 3635,Washington, D.C. 20007, 1984; $13 postpaid). Other good sources ofinformation are chambers of commerce, ski stores, and toy shops in areaswith lots of winter snow. Photo: Piggyback sledders hurtle down slopes of Mount Shasta,California, on new sled. He’s lying on a platform, steering withski 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, onnew sled. He’s lying on a platform, steering with ski tips Photo: Sled and skis with a steering wheel, 1979. Tubular steeland molded plastic; 14 pounds, 46 inches; $44 to $77. Sit upright; pullhandle to brake Photo: The flyer, 1889. Steel and hardwood: nine models, fourmanufacturers: 6 1/2 to 13 pounds, 37 to 60 inches, $15 to $50.

Tosteer, turn crossbar to flex runners. No brake Photo: One-piece plastic sled, 1984. Fiber-filled polyethylene; 7pounds, 42 inches; $25 to $31.

Tougher than it looks. To steer, griphandles to flex sled front. No brake. Grooved skis give traction withlittle friction Photo: Plastic sled with handles, 1971. High-density polyethylene;many models, sizes; 3 to 7 pounds, 32 to 44 inches; $12 to $50. Handlesdig into the snow; pull one to steer, two to brake Photo: Sled on nordic skis, 1982.

Oak with aluminum fittings; 12to 15 pounds, 24- to 30-inch platform; $133 to $147 (less for kit). Gripski tips to steer; push tips together to stop


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