With the winter months in full swing, many youngsters (and big kids alike) will be crossing their fingers for snow this January in the hope that they can dust off their sledge and hit the nearest slopes for some festive fast-paced fun. From the traditional wooden slatted sledges to today’s super-speedy plastic sledges, this age-old sport has been around for decades and is still as well loved as it was all those years ago. But as the years have passed by, the sledge has undergone a dramatic transformation. Here we take a look at the evolution of the sledge and what makes people’s snowy afternoons on the hills that little bit more exhilarating.
Sledges can be traced back as far as the medieval times, where they were used throughout Europe for transporting goods from place to place. It’s even said that the Ancient Egyptians used large sledges to help them move materials during construction work. They worked well moving across flat surfaces, such as grass, ice and snow and could be pulled by animals, speeding up the transportation process.
The 1800’s saw the introduction of toboggans, a sled with a curved front and no runners. Inuit’s made their toboggans out of whalebone but others used woods like birch, maple or ash. In the late 1800’s, not only did tobogganing become a sport but it also became somewhat of a fashion statement, with people hitting the slopes in their finest clothes! The late 1800’s also saw the first Kicksled, which was a timber frame with a handle bar and iron runners. Also known as a ‘Spark’, the Kicksled could only be used on hard, icy surfaces. Around the same time, the Bobsled was born by simply adding a steering mechanism to a toboggan. There are two types of Bobsled. The more commonly known ‘Luge’ which sees one or two riders sitting feet first on the sled, steering using straps attached to the runners. The ‘Skeleton’ saw riders drive headfirst down slopes. The ‘Luge’ became the front-runner when it was used for the 1964 Olympics and Bobsledding has been a sport ever since, in pretty much every winter Olympics.
In the late 1800’s, an inventor called Samuel Leeds Allen created the ‘Flexible Flyer’, a wooden slatted sled with a seat and T-shaped steel runners. It is best know for it’s wooden crosspiece that allowed the rider to steer with hand or foot. In the early 1900’s, Allen sold over 120,000 ‘Flexible Flyers’, as the sport became popular both in a competitive and recreational capacity.
Today sledging is a popular sport around the world. When the snow comes, out comes our need for speed as we race to the nearest hill with our trusty sledge. While classic favourites, such as the toboggan and Kicksled, are still widely used, today’s sledges have become even more advanced and most importantly, lightweight. Whilst the traditional wooden sledge is still commonly used, its plastic cousin is favored by many due to its speed and durability on the slopes.
Toboggans and Saucers still are popular choices but more advanced models, such as the Stiga Cobra and Stiga Stinger are chosen due to their plastic frame which allows riders to swerve down slopes at rapid speeds. Many even now have brakes to stop a pile-up at the foot of the hill.
The latest Metal frames with steering wheels are also becoming more and more popular, offering controlled but speedy rides. The Snowracer range, with its steering mechanism, robust frame and brakes, offers fast-paced thrills for the sledging enthusiast.
The sledge has come a long way from its early days of simply transporting goods and people. Today it is the tool for a fun-filled family day out. So get ready for the snow and make sure you have your sledge poised and ready to go.