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Winter is here and, like every year, I am still thrilled when the extended family rounds up all the little kids and we go sledding. This year we compared our sleds and found that some were significantly faster.

What is the fastest style of gravity/human-powered sled?

Are inner tubes faster than regular sleds? Are those little plastic discs the fastest? How about the old-fashioned wooden sleds with metal runners?

Before you ask: yes, I am an adult. Yes, I also like skiing. And yes, I know sledding is not a real sport.

No judgements!

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Who cares if it's a real sport? it's fun! I'm like an adult in certain ways, and it's still fun. :) But - it depends what you're sledding on. The fastest sled on snow might not be the fastest sled for ice. –  Don Branson Jan 5 '13 at 2:36
    
removed the request for brands, but the rest of the question is excellent - I'm interested to know too :-) –  Rory Alsop Jan 5 '13 at 12:46
    
Two of my (adult) friends have suffered a broken hip and broken hand while sledding. Be careful out there. –  LBell Jan 8 '13 at 4:43
    
I like using a make shift wooden sled with STEEL OR FIBERGLASS not metal rudders so on jumps it will not dent. –  user2745 Dec 9 '13 at 3:17
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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If all you want is to go fast, look for something with ridges or raised runners on the bottom so it will have less snow contact. However you may find it hard to steer - it will pretty much just go straight down the hill unless you lean wildly, which may cause you to fall over.

plastic sled $20

The discs are more controllable (in a wild crazy omg I'm flying down a hill kind of way) and perhaps more fun since what you do affects your ride. Ditto the "crazy carpets".

disc crazy carpet ($5 each)

Do try lying face down on your ride of choice (ala skeleton) for both a faster feel and more control. If your mother isn't watching, work on starting out by putting the sled on the ground, stepping back from it a few paces, then running toward it and launching yourself onto it face first to start your run.

The big wooden things with the curl at the front (toboggans, though some people use the word for any kind of sled) are best for piling 5 or 6 people onto and then all falling off in a tangled heap when you try to turn a corner of any kind. While this is fun, it's offset by the hassle of dragging such a heavy thing back up the hill.

toboggan $100 or more

The multipart constructions with seats, turnable skis, etc are similarly a pain to carry back up. I haven't tried the foam boards yet, but they look expensive and I'm not sure what the benefit is.

My suggestion: go to a Canadian Tire (or your local equivalent) and buy a selection of cheap lightweight plastic things: a disc, a rectangle that looks like two kids could sit in it, a carpet, etc (and if there are several of you then get several styles of rectangle) - spend about $30-$40 per person and then throw all that at a hill and find out what you like. If you're on a public hill, you can always give your "rejected" sleds to random other hill-visitors, who often show up in a group that has more people than sleds.

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I'm going to hand this one to you. It is certainly the best answer. I wish we had something a bit more definitive for an answer, so I looked around and posted some pseudo-scientific results I found below. Thanks for the interest! –  theJollySin Feb 13 '13 at 16:46
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For hard-packed or icy snow, steel runner sleds are quite fast. You can increase your speed by rubbing wax along the runners (we used candle stubs for this). Also, the heads are flexible and allow for steering.

enter image description here

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My concern in accepting your answer is two-fold: (1) Wouldn't all sleds be faster if you wax them down? and (2) I thought these sleds were only fast on really hard-packed snow, but were kind of useless on deep, fluffy snow? –  theJollySin Jan 29 '13 at 20:33
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I noted in my answer that these sleds are best on hard packed or icy snow. They're aren't useless in deep fluffy snow, but they won't be the fastest on that type. I don't think wax would help with all sleds because plastics or wood aren't going to necessarily take the wax well or even be improved by it. These, with their metal runners, are. –  Fisher Jan 29 '13 at 21:59
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The fastest type of sledge really does depend on the type of snow - if it's softer snow then you want a sledge with the greatest surface area, since thin runners will tend to just bog you down, sinking into the snow rather than riding on top of it. The greater surface area will spread your weight out more, meaning you stay on top of the snow.

However, on harder, compacted snow or icy ground then the smaller the contact area the better, so runners work much better in this regard. They're also generally better at getting the sledge to go in a straight line.

In both cases, reducing the friction of the contact area can work wonders - it may be if you get a plastic or (especially) wooden sledge, coating the contactable area with candle wax can reduce friction and therefore increase speed.

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We have tested many sleds over the years and this one is as dangerously fast as it is classically beautiful. I won't ride this one without a helmet and other protective gear. We live on a mountain and I'll often leave this one in the garage in favor of a cheap plastic torpedo style sled because it's too fast.

Ultimate Flyer

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While searching online for an answer to my question, I came upon the this pseudo-scientific research. They did not test the old wood-and-metal sleds, so this may not be good science.

Never-the-less, Here are the results:

The fastest sled the "researchers" found was the Airboard. At $269, this better be the best sled in the world, and the researchers thought it was. Still, I can't imagine myself spending so much.

$269 Airboard

The next two are the real winners. These two sleds were almost as fast, but were priced in a more sane manner:

The SnowBoogie Tech Flyer and the Torpedo PT Blaster:

$69 Snowboogie Tech Flyer $59 Torpedo PT Blaster

At $69 and $59 respectively, these will be cheaper than the old wood-and-metal-runners sleds. And they will have better steering. More importantly, when you inevitably crash in one of these plastic jobs you won't end up puncturing a lung.

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If you want the fastest sled in just about all snow conditions, get yourself one of these:

Zeledi at en.wikipedia

Not fast enough? Add more dogs. (Though I can't in good conscience recommend more than 18. And make sure your brakes work...)

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Well, technically you are totally correct. Though I feel like that means I need to edit my question some how. –  theJollySin Jan 28 '13 at 22:45
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@theJollySin Try that ;) (see edit) –  LBell Jan 28 '13 at 22:49
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@theJollySin And that saves me from having to dredge up a photo of a rocket-sled... –  LBell Jan 28 '13 at 22:50
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Oh what the h#ll: the-rocketman.com/rkt_sled.html –  LBell Jan 28 '13 at 23:31
    
That rocket sled is not really compatible with "leave no trace" :D –  Paul Paulsen Jul 16 at 9:39
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On Sleds, if your looking for one at the store look for:

Arrow dynamic or the > shape for the snow will be pushed to the side and youll go faster.

small compact space, not with 3 dozen people on it for they will slow you down not only is more area on a sled makes it heaver on the ground both causing friction.

thick and reliable so it wont break, blow ups such as inner tubes can POP.

plastics can break if hit two hard on a jump. metals will dent if not made too thick.

foam flakes and wears off slowly.

My recommendations. 1 person Disk/saucer.

2 or more Tobaggon w arrow shape.

I personally don’t like runners because they dig into the ground for adults slowing them down and making the grounds man angry.

Remember the plastics can be made at different levels I Personally like Fiberglass.

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