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Easy sledding.

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 looked like the one in the lower left-hand corner. Invented in 1889 by Sam L. Allen for his granddaughter, the "flyer' was the only steerable sled around for nearly 80 years.

Today, a new breed of sleds gives you a much wider choice, at prices ranging from less than $12 to almost $150. Sleek and often lightweight, they are safer than toboggans, inner tubes, saucers, and plastic 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 up the hill.

Then, in the 1970s, some Swedish inventors laid three short plastic skis down, stuck a platform and steering whell on top, and discovered they had a sled that handled beautifully in all kinds of snow. The wide skis skim on top of powder and slushy snow, whereas narrow steel runners dig in. Other sled-ski combinations followed, as did new steering and braking systems.

Where and when to buy for Christmas: check catalogs, all kinds of stores

We checked every major metropolitan area in the West and found sleds for sale in a remarkable variety of stores. Most likely to sell sleds are--in this order-- major department stores, toy stores, sporting goods stores, hardware stores, and ski shops. We even found a shop in Denver selling used sleds: Grandma's Toy Haven.

But not all stores have sleds in stock; you may have to order and wait a week or more. Call ahead to check price and availability; prices for the same model can be quite different, and sleds tend to sell out just before Christmas.

You can also order by mail; sleds are advertised in more than a dozen catalogs nationwide. Department stores with catalog departments will ship one within 1 to 10 working days of your order, as long as they have it in stock. Smaller catalog companies vary widely in shipping time.

You may have a hard time finding the sled on nordic skis pictured on this page. Because it's handcrafted by a two-man

Choosing for quality

Our photograph shows the four types of steerable sleds you're likely to see in stores and catalogs, plus the one on nordic skis. All four 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 over plastic models for thin spots; they often show when held against the light. Also see if plastic ones have structural ribs underneath or on the sides for support. Grooved plastic runners or skis give greater traction on turns than smooth runners.

Sit-up models often have brakes, but they also have a higher center of 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 few trees or rocks and a flat part at the bottem. National forests allow sledding, but some don't encourage it; call ahead. Several ski resorts have designated areas for sledding; for a list of these, check The White Book of Ski Areas (Inter-Ski Services, Inc., Box 3635, Washington, D.C. 20007, 1984; $13 postpaid). Other good sources of information are chambers of commerce, ski stores, and toy shops in areas with lots of winter snow.

Photo: Piggyback sledders hurtle down slopes of Mount Shasta, California, on new sled. He's lying on a platform, steering with ski 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, on new sled. He's lying on a platform, steering with ski tips

Photo: Sled and skis with a steering wheel, 1979. Tubular steel and molded plastic; 14 pounds, 46 inches; $44 to $77. Sit upright; pull handle to brake

Photo: The flyer, 1889. Steel and hardwood: nine models, four manufacturers: 6 1/2 to 13 pounds, 37 to 60 inches, $15 to $50. To steer, turn crossbar to flex runners. No brake

Photo: One-piece plastic sled, 1984. Fiber-filled polyethylene; 7 pounds, 42 inches; $25 to $31. Tougher than it looks. To steer, grip handles to flex sled front. No brake. Grooved skis give traction with little friction

Photo: Plastic sled with handles, 1971. High-density polyethylene; many models, sizes; 3 to 7 pounds, 32 to 44 inches; $12 to $50. Handles dig into the snow; pull one to steer, two to brake

Photo: Sled on nordic skis, 1982. Oak with aluminum fittings; 12 to 15 pounds, 24- to 30-inch platform; $133 to $147 (less for kit). Grip ski tips to steer; push tips together to stop
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1984
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