When selecting a craft, sledding purists such as myself are guided by a time-honored principle: less control equals more fun. Thus our predilection for saucers, toboggans, and other wood and plastic artifacts from mountain sports’ pre-helmet era.
Today’s contraptions have too many moving parts, high-tech materials, and cumbersome safety features. I recently encountered a sled that was designed to be ridden on one’s knees in order to facilitate halfpipe-style tricks. No, thanks.
But I am willing to make one sop to modernity, in the form of Hammerhead’s Pro XLD—an elegant, high-performance machine capable of frighteningly fast descents. Polycarbonate skis make pinpoint turns easy, and a four-foot-long aluminum frame with tensioned webbing allow proper position for a steerable sled: belly down, headfirst, with a POV like Mario Kart. Included in the instructions is the cautionary “Not a toy.”
Maybe, but the XLD is built for fun. I like to hike up my local ski hill at dawn, before the chairlifts open, then bomb down the freshly groomed runs at 40 miles per hour, carving wide arcs and, if I must, braking by dragging the toes of my boots in the snow. Skidding to a stop in front of the lift line, I usually get blank stares and the occasional “Sickbird!”
Recently, a helicopter mom who’d been busy triple-checking her eight-year-old’s mitten leashes raised her head long enough to shoot me a disapproving glare. The kid stared at me like I was Batman. “Don’t worry,” I said as I stood up. “You’ll be old enough soon.” ($349)