Sleds – The snowshoeing parent’s secret weapon

-John S.

Kids/Family Ambassador

When I go snowshoeing by myself I can gain a ridge, gaze over the valley below, and be content. I love the muffled sounds of the wilderness blanketed in snow and its peace permeates my soul.

My kids? Not so much.

They want to do something. That might mean throwing snowballs (at me), running (away, after throwing a snowball at me), or building a snowman (usually a not-at-all flattering depiction of me). More than anything else, they love to go sledding.

All my junior ambassadors are under the age of 10, so going to the commercial sledding hills makes me way too nervous. We’ve always stuck to more gentle hills where the sound barrier and their bones are unlikely to be broken. Most recently, I’ve been taking the sleds along with us on snowshoe trips. This is a big win on several fronts.

* Kids love to tow a sled. Carry a backpack? No way! Carry the same gear in a sled? You bet. It’s not logical, but they’re kids. (Pro tip: Call it a “pulk” and they’ll be even more excited.)

* Kids love to ride in a sled. It doesn’t matter who’s pulling it, my five year old will jump in the sled without any warning even if that means the sled’s forward momentum comes to a complete halt. It’s only a problem when we’re going up a hill and the whole party starts going backward.

* Towing kids in a sled is a great workout. That wilderness ridge I want to enjoy when I go out without the kids? It doesn’t seem so hard to get to after you’ve towed 100 pounds of your offspring for a mile.

* Whenever you find a hill, it’s a free ride down. I’m not too proud to slide down the hill. It beats walking.

* Sledding is a great way to build character in kids. Kids need a little fear and exhilaration now and then. Remember, “Bones healChicks dig scarsPain is temporary,” (Evel Knieval) so don’t be afraid to let them take some moderate risks. Plus snow is generally pretty soft.

* A sled is a great way to extend the range of your kids. The first sled I bought when I started snowshoeing was not so I could go down a hill, but so I could take my daughter up. She was too big for the backpack, but fit perfectly in the sled. And if you paint your sled pink it’ll fit right in when you’re doing the Romp to Stomp.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about sleds is make sure you have enough of them. At least one for each kid. They’re cheap and if you have enough, you can have the kids race down the hill for prizes of hot cocoa. Everybody wins.