If Clark Griswold taught us anything, it’s that you never shop for pools without getting your Christmas bonus first. If he taught us two things, the other is that there’s an art to sledding. Any simpleton can slide down a hill (and mostly dodge traffic and crash through a shed, nearly killing himself and innocent bystanders in the process). But, it takes skill to navigate a snow-covered slope with speed, style, purpose, and finesse.
If it’s time to ditch your department store sled, here are our picks for the best sleds to elevate your downhill game this winter. Just don’t forget to pack warm snow gloves, goggles, and — depending on how crazy you like your winter sports — a good ski helmet too.
Sometimes only the best will do, even when it comes to sledding. Flexible Flyer’s 42-inch Snow Screamer is a premium sled built for adults who want to feel like Olympic sledders without the usual lifetime of training and commitment. The tri-layer sled features an inch of polyethylene foam sandwiched between a crack-resistant hard plastic bottom and a durable top layer. As the name implies, it’s designed to “scream” over fresh snow without “digging in.” Thick padded foam throughout helps absorb bumps and provide a pillowy soft downhill ride. Upgrade to the larger, 47-inch model that seats two adults for just a few dollars more.
Toboggans are a great alternative to traditional sleds: They’re lightweight, agile, ultra-stable, and can usually accommodate two or more riders. This model from aptly named Slippery Racer is made from durable but lightweight plastic with a slick coating that delivers an ultra-fast ride. A built-in pull rope also provides easy portability.
If you long for those days spent sledding as a rosy-cheeked little kid, there’s nothing like the nostalgia of a classic wooden sled. This version is a picture-perfect re-creation of the same vintage downhill runners you remember. Don’t let the old-school construction fool you. The birch wood seat supports up to 250 pounds with a versatile design that allows you to sit upright or go Superman-style (i.e., face-first). Either way, the powder-coated steel runners deliver lighting fast runs and reliable maneuverability.
Sledding doesn’t get much simpler than with Flexible Flyer’s 611 Flying Carpet sled. As the name implies, the lightweight design maximizes portability by rolling up like a yoga mat for easy storage. Once unfurled, the 36-by-18-inch footprint offers more than enough room for adults and children. Soft round edges and twin punch-out handles ensure this sled is safe to carry and ride.
Why settle for a flimsy sled that will break the moment your kid gets a little too rowdy in the snow? L.L. Bean’s Pull Sled and Cushion is designed to last for generations and is made from durable kiln-dried northern hardwoods. The padded foam cushion that has the bright red color of the holidays also assures anyone comfort with its soft, water-repellant material.
Don’t be intimidated by the hefty price tag. This Yukon sled is of the highest quality and is a long-term investment for anyone who enjoys sledding. This sled will last you many winters in your lifetime with its sturdy aluminum frame. It also means serious business as it has a stainless steel steering system designed with speed and precision in mind. The base is also durable enough that it can accommodate multiple people with a limit of 230 pounds.
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