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Tips for Safe Tobogganing

by Karen Ung
As someone who has spent many happy winter days tobogganing without incident, I was appalled to hear of sledding bans in various cities across North America. It appears that individuals are not taking precautions, getting hurt, and then turning to the city for compensation. While almost any outdoor activity poses a risk of injury, with common sense, major injuries can be avoided. To this end, I give you my rules for safe tobogganing (or Tobogganing for Idiots).

Rules for Safe Tobogganing

  1. Love thy brain. Wear a ski/hockey helmet. 
  2. Sit up in the sled, don’t lie down, and certainly don’t go head first. Face down on your stomach with your head forward, is the most dangerous position” according to Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon*. Your brain and spine are kind of important to every day life, so let’s keep them intact.
  3. Mr. Tree is not your friend. He is a big bully that will bust you up if you come anywhere near him. Do not sled if there are trees in your slide path or near it!
  4. Sticks and stones will break your bones (or rip your face open). Avoid low hanging branches or stones sticking up out of the ground.
  5. Do not sled onto roads, alleys, or parking lots. In Toboggan vs. F150, the truck won. In Toboggan vs. BMW, the car won. Basically, in any toboggan vs. motor vehicle scenario, toboggan loses.
  6. Ms. Fence is not your friend. She is an antisocial wretch that requires ample personal space. If you disturb her, she will flip your sled and shatter your nose. Keep your distance!
  7. Don’t make or use jumps. You really can’t control how you will land after getting big air (and cracked ribs are painful).
  8. Look for snow covered terrain and a soft landing pad. Grassy knolls blanketed in snow are sliding nirvana. Ice, pavement, concrete, or bare ground are just magnets for injuries and costly emergency dental work. *Ice patches can cause you to speed up and/or lose control, so do not toboggan on ice, please!*
  9. Sleds are not boats. Keep them on land. Even if the pond below looks frozen, refer to Rule 8 above, and find another place to slide.
  10. More is not merrier. If your sled is made for two; only let two people ride in it.
  11. Cherish the space between. Space between you and other sleds is a good thing.
  12. Don’t sled in the dark! You never know who might be lurking in the shadows; Mr. Tree, Ms. Fence, and friends are highly unforgiving.
  13. Get outta the way! When you reach the bottom, move to the side and walk up the side of the hill.
A designated toboggan hill in Confederation Park, Calgary

If it were up to me, sledding would neither be banned nor restricted to designated areas. I love the freedom to discover new toboggan hills with my kids and feel tobogganing is less risky than walking on icy sidewalks. Hopefully the recent media attention regarding tobogganing will encourage families to be safe when they partake in this pastime. Sledding is an exhilarating, affordable winter activity for all that can be done safely. Follow the rules and save sledding!

Sledding in Calgary
Have you been affected by a sledding ban?  How do you feel about it?

This post was syndicated on BonBon Break

More Winter Fun

For More Information

*Tobogganing is more dangerous than you think – here’s how to stay safe, Globe & Mail

Tobogganing and Sledding Safety, City of Ottawa

Preventing Injuries for Tobogganing and Sledding, Parachute Canada

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