Sledding Hill Safety Tips

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Each winter, kids of all ages (and those young at heart) carry sleds up hills across Michigan, all for the quick thrill of a fast ride downhill. Sledding is a huge winter activity in a state where at least three months of the year typically have snow on the ground. Most big ski resorts in the state offer sledding areas, but so do county park systems and lots of schools and local communities. But with any activity where speed is a fun factor, there is risk. Before heading out to any hill, people should keep sledding hill safety tips in mind.
On average each year, more than 20,000 children and teenagers are treated in U.S. hospitals’ emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy, a national nonprofit based in Ohio. These injuries can occur many different ways. Children can fall off a sled on their way downhill, or they can get hurt when their sled hits another sledder on the hill, or runs into a stationary object like a tree or fence. Sledding areas can be icy, contributing to falls that can cause broken bones, bruises or head injuries like concussions. 
When it comes to sledding injuries, children are at much greater risk than adults. Statistics show kids are nearly seven times as likely to sustain a sledding-related injury compared to adults. And head injuries are particularly concerning, with more than 80% of kids’ sledding-related injuries involving an injury to the face or head.
But there are ways to lessen the risk. Here are some suggestions from safety groups:
  • Wear a helmet. Young kids and teens should wear a sports helmet, firmly fastened under their chin, to protect their head while they sled.
  • Select safe equipment. Sleds with braking and steering mechanisms can offer young riders more control and keep them from colliding with other sledders or stationary objects in their path.
  • Don’t sled head-first. Sit on top of a sled, with feet pointed downhill.
  • Check a sled’s condition. Before hitting the sledding hill, check to make sure sleds are in good condition with no cracks or broken pieces.
  • Avoid water. Lakes, ponds, streams and rivers do not mix with sledding. It’s common for people sledding near water to overshoot their stopping point and sled into the water. If people sled onto thin ice, the ice could break and the person could fall into the water.
  • Wear boots. Warm, sturdy boots are needed for sledding. For extra grip, slip traction guards onto boots that will dig into the snow to make uphill treks safer.
  • Look before sledding. Check out the entire sledding area. Look for trees, tree stumps, fences, trash bins, steps, and any other obstacles.
  • Beware of sledding in crowds. People should pick areas to sled that are not too crowded to reduce the risk of collisions.
  • Wear a hat and mittens. Fingertips and ears are prime problem areas for frostbite. Wear a warm coat and proper winter gear to protect from hypothermia and frostbite injuries.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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