Sledding, that noble winter-weekend sport, looks simple. It’s not. Here are the ten best sleds** to do it right (don’t worry, there is still plenty of snow), whether you’re a kid in the Rockies or an over-the-hiller in Flatlandia. (Watch our testing video.)
10. TSL Quickie ($9; available at ORS Snowshoes Direct)
The Quickie killed the other sleds on price. Unfortunately, after a few runs by our male testers, it earned the less-than-glowing moniker “The Capital of Thailand.” That said, we were riding it early season on two inches of snow with intermittent saplings spread throughout the testing hill. (Hey, someone has to do it.) But it was fast, and the kids on the hill who borrowed it loved it.
9. Paricon Avalanche Circular Sled ($14; available online through Sam's Club)
Don’t let the name confuse you. It’s a disc. As such, it’s uncomfortable, unmaneuverable, and uncontrollable. In other words, it’s wicked fun, and everything a sled should be. In the end, it made our list because it was the only plastic disc that we didn’t destroy.
8. Wham-O SnowBoogie Air Thunder ($20; purchased at Walmart)
The Snow Boogie is supposed to be ridden like an ocean-going boogie board—only problem is that waves give way when your hands dig in. Not so in the mountains (no wonder they call them the Rockies). Still, the Snow Boogie won a handful of first-place votes for its belly-down style and its maneuverability —lean hard one way and the Snow Boogie will actually carve in powder.
7. Twice-Patched Truck-Tire Inner Tube ($3, purchased at Amigo Tire Co., in Santa Fe, NM)
Cheap. Durable. Fun to trash. A plain old second-hand tire is a great choice for tubing on the cheap. The best part: It’s fun to destroy them (although actually doing so is often harder than it might seem). The downfall: it’s hard to develop speed in powder conditions; look for ice and steep grades.
6. Paricon Sleds 60” Flexible Flyer ($100)
The original steel-railed beauty that revolutionized sledding in 1889, when it debuted, is still accounting for untold winter fun. The Flyer introduced flexible rails that allow the rider to steer down the slope—at least that was the idea. In practice, the Flyer handles as well as a kitchen table. But in a way, that’s the best feature: Steering is more of a suggestion. Thankfully, the sledder-always-has-the-right-of-way precept is still the norm at most hills. In other words, Watch Out!
5. Mountain Boy Sledworks 6’ Mountain Boggan ($200)
The hardwood classic. We fit five people at once on the handmade Mountain Boggan, and it easily held up. at what felt like Mock 5, too. What it lacks in maneuverability and comfortability (spring for the optional pad; $30). But what the Boggoa lacks in sterrability, it more than makes up for it in aesthetics and sheer fun. It’s also surprisingly durable. If you want a sled to hang in the cabin, decorate your ski-resort timeshare, or pass down to your grandkids, this is it.
4. Paricon Winter Lightening ($60 for a three-pack through Amazon.com)
The plastic classic. It has all the cheap speed, inexpensive durability, and free maneuverability (i.e. none) that defines a The only downfall, we broke it on a rock half a dozen runs in (although this should not reflect so much on the sled as on our poor choice in a path—i.e. which way gravity was pulling us inexorably out of control). But the ride sure was fun while it lasted.
3. Sportsstuff Super Crossover Tube ($200)
The beauty of the Crossover is that it absorbs bumps like you’re riding down the hill on a 4-foot marshmallow. The downfall is that it careens at warp speed in whichever direction gravity pulls it—like towards that exceptionally hard pine tree. (The bruises on my left bum cheek are still visible). But, man, it’s fun—probably the funnest in the bunch. And despite its 340lb. weight limit, we fit three full-grown (physically) men for a ride down a rock and Bonus: It doubles as a water tube capable of being towed behind a boat.
2. Hammerhead Pro XLD ($349)
By far the tester favorite. The Hammerhead was fast, comfy, and outstandingly maneuverable. Time after time, the Hammerhead smoked every other sled in head-to-head speed tests, mostly because it was able to steer away from trees, small children, and other sledder. In our ranking, it was dinged heavily for price (yes, it really is a whopping $350), but if you’re looking for the Aston Martin of sleds, the Pro XLD is it.
1. ESP Snow-Twin Toboggan ($15; purchased at Big Five Sporting Good in Santa Fe, NM; available online at Dick’s Sporting Goods.)
Cheap. Durable. And almost impossible to trash. The Snow-Twin Toboggan is the standard by which all other sleds should be measured. And it’s a classic on top of it. Neither multiple riders nor rocks nor saplings nor new holes drilled in the side hand-rails to strap down heavy loads for carrying provisions into the backcountry could stop this monster. And because it’s slick and devoid of any pretense of steering, it’s frighteningly fast—everything a sled should be. Get one, keep it for years, and go ahead and try to destroy it before it destroys you. We dare you.
**Methodology: In order to rank the sleds, we took 15 sleds, or whatmight pass for sleds—everything from newfangled, $400 contraptions to atruck tire and grain shovel—and timed each of them on a New Mexicomountainside with a 20-plus sledding aficionados (who isn’t?),including a control group of five dedicated testers who rode each one.At least that was the plan. After we destroyed three of the sleds inshort succession, it became a free-for-all. In the midst of the mayhem,we did manage to take scores for durability, maneuverability, comfort,and, of course, speed. Afterwards we rated the sleds. Speed, naturally,was weighted most heavily.