All the sleds from your childhood, ranked
From toboggans to Flexible Flyers, here are ten ways of getting down a snow covered hill, in order.
Winter is here! We may gripe these days, but when we were kids, Jack Frost was a welcome visitor. Winter meant the holidays, snow days, snow men and, most importantly, racing down a steep slope head first. Sledding could make all those freezing temperatures worthwhile. So slide into your snow suit, slip on your moon boots, and choose your favorite gravity-powered vehicle.
There were plenty of options for getting down a hill. Here are ten of them, ranked. We factored in speed, steering, style and fun. Which did you have? Which was your favorite? And if you grew up in Florida or Arizona, hopefully you had some relatives up north.
The Flexible Flyer / Flying Arrow
It's hard to top the classic. This baby dates back all the way to 1889, and started to really take off around World War I. Nothing zips across packed snow like cold metal. The combination of velocity and handling, not to mention speeding head first like Pete Rose stealing second, make this sled perfection.
Pros: Speed, responsive steering, the danger of going headfirst
Cons: Heavy for that trek back up the hill, wiping out while going headfirst
Not far removed from a trash can lid or Captain America's shield, these concave circles could really motor down a mountain. Uncontrollably. Especially if you greased or waxed up the bottom. They mixed sledding with those spinning teacups at Disneyland. True daredevils could still zip down on their stomachs, too.
Pros: Quite fast, easy to carry, versatile, spinning
Cons: No control, dizziness
The inflatable Sno-Nut
Like the Discs, the blow-ups could be used while sitting or prone. The ideal ride for an uneven slope, these babies were great for catching air. You wouldn't want to go off a ramp on a wooden sled. But this was made for jumping.
Pros: Could double as a raft in summer, works as its own airbag, great for catching air
No sled offered better control than this hybrid of skis and a snowmobile. It was pricier, but gave a kid the feeling of being an adult. You could pretend you were in a James Bond chase scene in the Alps.
Pros: Steering, hard to wipe out
Cons: No towing capabilities, rather fancy
Aluminum Snow Wing
As seen in the upper left, this minimal design brought a space-age feel to the standard sit-up sled. Metal moved better than plastic, and the reduced surface area added speed. The steering instruction was simply "leaning left or right," which won't exactly corner like Mario Andretti.
Pros: Sturdy, like something from a sci-fi film
Cons: Only one way to ride, weaker steering
These plastic toboggans could be harder to get going, but at sufficient angles, they could really fly — and stop on a dime with those digging brakes. Though, often, "stopping" merely meant "wiping out."
The standard plastic ride. While ideal for duos, it could take some serious scooching to get it moving, especially on gentler inclines. There was little to no control, outside of yanking on the reins as if it were a runaway stagecoach.
Pros: Two could ride, good for towing
Cons: No steering, slow
While it looked awesome, like a Jet Ski, the Snow Horse never seemed to live up to its promise. Part of that was its bulk. You added weight could supply too much friction and dig this thing into the powder. But on hard, icy hills, it could scoot.
Pros: Looks like a motorized vehicle
A human body
Those would never work in fresh-falled fluff, but a few days after a snow, after the sun had melted the crust a bit, you could legitimately body surf. The big downside? Having mom complain about ruining your new jacket.
Has anyone had an enjoyable ride on a toboggan? Hard to steer, gargantuan and dragging, these classic sleds typically involved a chain of friends pawing at the ground, desperate to get moving. It looks great in a vintage painting, but a toboggan is more of a workout than a pleasure. You might as well try to ride a rowing machine down the hill.
Cons: Huge, immobile