A favourite winter-time activity for many families is sledding. The equipment required isn’t expensive – unless you invest in a super-duper GT Snow Racer – and there isn’t a whole lot of skill or training required. Sledding refers to traveling down a snowy hill using a sled or toboggan, which could be as simple as some wooden slats on a metal runner, or a carpet (really a flat plastic surface) or a saucer. In a pinch feel free to improvise with a cafeteria lunch tray or cookie sheet. Really, any flat, slippery surface will do. In fact, back in the old days, before the invention of the snow racer, kids used to go sledding using a broken-down cardboard box! (At least that’s what my Dad tells me.)
The first trip down the hill is the most important, but also the most difficult, as it sets the path of the sled for further runs. It is important to steer the sled along the most exciting course, adding twists and turns to make the run down the hill faster or more exciting.
Once the path has been created all you need to do is hop on your tool of choice and head down the hill. The ability to steer your sled is key as it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for other sledders returning up the hill. Once you get the hang of sledding, and if you have a strong stomache for the thrill, you can vary your sledding techniques to make things a little more exciting. For instance, lying flat on your stomach and heading down the hill face first can add to the thrill. Running up to a sled and jumping onto it can create additional momentum and improve ride speed as well.
Here are some suggestions of THE best places to sled.
Gemmill Park in Almonte – All the locals know that the best place to sled in Almonte is behind the arena at Gemmill Park. There is plenty of parking available and if memory serves me well there are even lights for night-time enjoyment. The hill is wide and can serve a large number of sledders. The landing is safe with no fear of flying out into traffic – but do be careful of the trees!
Pakenham – If you are looking for a slightly more sophisticated experience, you might consider heading to Mount Pakenham, where you can rent a rubber blown-up snow-tube on a secure course. For $12 per person, you can spend the day sledding on the gentle slopes of the walk-up hill. Pack your own lunch or purchase one at the cafeteria. The experience is completed by the outdoor campfire. Check out the website at www.mountpakenham.com.
Carleton Place (by the curling club) – Carleton Place must be built on flatter land because there are fewer places available for sledding. Local residents know that the this is THE spot for sledding in town. Head over to the curling club on Patterson Crescent near the Recycling Depot – and that’s where you will find the best spot for sledding.
Carlington Hill – Ottawa – Apparently Ottawa has 56 hills for sledding, but why not go to the former ski-hill for the most sophisticated hill in the city. Carlington Hill operated as a ski-hill until approximately 1970 with it’s own chairlift. It has since been retired to a sledding hill, but only for the brave of heart. It’s slopes are sometimes tackled by wanna-be-snowboarders. This hill features night-time lighting as well, but it’s best left to the more sophisticated sledders with it’s steep slopes.
The key to enjoying winter sledding is dressing appropriately. Snow boots with your snow-pants tucked inside will keep your legs and feet warm and dry. Good mitts and a warm hat keep your hands and head warm too. What a great way to spend some time outdoors with the kids in your life – big or little. And who knows? Maybe you are even helping them train for the winter Olympics!