In these trying times, I have found myself scrounging for joy in the simplest of pleasures. Thanks to the plummeting temperatures and increased lockdown protocols in Ontario, outings and outdoor activities have become much scarcer than they were in the summer months of the pandemic. So, I treat every opportunity I get to frolic in the outdoors with my roommates with the same enthusiasm as I would have a night on the town a year ago.

Such was the mentality I brought to the table when one of my roommates suggested a night of tobogganing. As a seasoned sledder, having cut up the hills all through my childhood, how could I not jump at this opportunity for not only time outside, but exciting, physically active time, which is hard to come by at the frigid end of January? So, that evening, we skipped arm in arm, magic saucers in hand, to Bickford Park. 

It was evident that we were not the only household to come up with such a bright idea: there were little friend groups bunched incrementally at the top of the hill, piling up on sleds together, or sending one of their members off. We staked out a lane for ourselves on the hill and began what was sure to be an evening of fun.

Or so we thought.

On one fateful run, my friend and I huddled together on a single saucer ready to catch some real speed. We even got one of our roommates to spin-push us for maximum rotation down the hill — an advanced move. As we spun down the hill, two novice sledders cut into our lane — stopped right in our line of fire — and laid back, observing the sky. I hollered, yelped, screamed — and yet, it was too late.

The collision was fantastic: appendages smashed together, and I was left splayed on the bottom of the hill, stunned.

Indeed, this event was tragic. But I can’t be defined by my lightly bruised shin. I knew, in that moment, that I must write a piece to let the public know, as a veteran sledder, the lay of the land to prevent this from messing up anyone else’s ‘taboozing.’ 

1. Choose your lane

Stake out the right lane for you! Want speed? Find the steepest section. Want cool jumps? Find a bumpy one.  

2. Stay in it

This one is pretty self evident.

Use your feet and hands to steer and brake and shift the weight in your body to make sure your line is as straight as possible. If you’re doing ultra-cool tricks — such as toboggan surfing or spin moves, you get the picture — just send out a prayer and hope for the best.

3. Have the right gear

Dress for chilly temperatures, and prepare for the possibility of getting snow everywhere. I suggest some hefty snow pants!

Also, your choice of sled is important: Canadian Tire sells great ones for both singles on the slopes and those looking to team up with roommates. Garbage bags and collapsed cardboard boxes are also options, but they will not get you the real speed you’re probably going for. 

4. Respect the walk-up lane 

No one wants to sled down bumpy, trodden hills. If you’re visiting a hill that has been sledded on lots, there will be areas of slick, packed down snow, ideal for speedy sledding. To walk back up the hill after your run, try to preserve these ideal lanes; find the area where everyone has been walking up, and respect it!

5. Absolutely no lollygagging!

When you finish your run do not — and I repeat, do not— sit at the bottom of the hill for long. This is how collisions happen. Besides, it really exposes you as an amateur. 

Learn from my mistakes, dear sledder. Take this guidance to the hills. Good luck!