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The History of Sledding

Dec 31, 2012

Sledding (or tobogganing) is a beloved winter pastime for lots of people, especially if you live in a place that gets piles of snow during the dead of winter, but how much do you know about how sledding became so popular? Find out more in The History of Sledding!

Sleigh Me

The word sled comes from the Middle English word “sledde” (a very old type of English that is so different from what we use today, you would have trouble recognizing it) which meant “slider.” And that’s exactly what it does! We use sleds during the winter because they move easily through ice and snow, and even rock and some grass in certain instances. We may think of sleds as just for fun, but sleds actually come from sleighs and sledges, which were used as far back as the medieval era in Europe for transporting goods and people. You may have noticed that in most pictures of Santa, his reindeer pull him through the night sky in a sleigh, but traditional sleighs were used for transporting people and were often drawn by horses or dogs. European explorers used sledges and sleighs to navigate their way through the Arctic and Antarctic, and in some colder Scandinavian countries sleighs and sledges were not only fast, they were exempt from tolls on roads and bridges and so became popular for moving sizable goods. Chilly places like the Arctic still have huskies pulling sleighs as an option for getting through the snow quickly! Sleds are shorter and lighter than a traditional sleigh or sledge, people realized that sliding through the snow was so fun, that it might be worth giving everyone a shot, even if they didn’t need to get anywhere! That’s where the sleds we know today come in.

Different Types of Sleds

There are lots of different types of sleds: bobsleds, luges and skeletons are used for competitive sports, you’ve probably seen them before during the Winter Olympics. They are specially crafted to hold their riders and whip them through the snow as fast as possible.

When it comes to the kinds of sleds that people use just for having fun, there are lots of different options:

  • Toboggan – a long sled without runners, the old-fashioned kind are made from wood.
  • Saucers – a round, curved sled usually made out of metal or plastic
  • Flexible Flyer – a steerable wooden sled with thin runners.
  • Inflatable sled – lightweight sleds.

Did You Know...

Sleds may be a winter pastime for us, but they also work on sand and Ancient Egyptians used large sledges to help with construction, such as transporting large obelisks.

Have Your Say

Do you go sledding? Let us know in the comments section below!



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