Kicksledding is common in Scandinavia as practical transport, recreational fun and a competitive sport, yet it is little known in the United States. Having used kicksleds as part of accessible winter recreation activities for many years now, I recommend it for anyone looking for a unique inclusion item. They are relatively inexpensive compared to most adaptive recreation equipment and can be purchased for around $300 each. Two sources are Kicksled Canada (http://www.kicksledcanada.com/) and the Vermont Kicksled Company (http://www.vermontkicksled.com/).
The basic idea is a wooden chair mounted on long runners, pushed by one person who provides the ride for another. The runners have footplates which allow the pusher to ride behind on gentle downhills. Steering is accomplished by pulling one side of the sled - the kicksled frame is flexible and can be torqued by hand to direct the sled. Dragging one foot or both heels allows the pusher to slow down and brake. Kicksleds offer another form of exercise for winter enthusiasts, a convenient device for ice fishermen, and can be converted into dogsleds for those with willing canine companions.
Kicksleds are great for transporting kids and seniors on moderate snow covered terrain, especially with wide groomed trails. The seat may appear small but they are capable of supporting up to 200 pounds or more, depending on the style and design. Some children's adaptive seating devices can be strapped right onto the wooden seat for customized comfort and support. I've seen people of all ages enjoy being included on nature walks and other winter outings. Kicksleds can also be used without a passenger. A bag or crate of supplies can easily be strapped onto the seat. Some kicksled designs allow for a separate ice runner to be added for use on frozen lakes. The kicksled is a versatile device that makes a great gift for a family or purchase for any organization seeking greater inclusion in the winter outdoors.
A few recommendations for kicksled use:
- Avoid steep terrain. This will keep your speed manageable and your ride safest. The kicksled is designed for flat and moderate terrain.
- Practice braking and steering on moderate terrain before trying any significant hills. Steering and braking take some time to accomplish. Wide trails and open terrain offer the best learning opportunity to minimize collisions.
- Consider adding a seat belt. They don't necessarily come with the sled but can be easily added with webbing and buckles. Not having a seat belt allows for easy bailing by the rider if the kicksled is out of control. Having a seatbelt may help contain some passengers better and keep their weight centered.
- Balance the weight and abilities of pusher and rider. The smaller the rider the easier the sled is to push. The bigger the rider the more potential to pick up speed on a downhill. Pushers with good reflexes and physical strength will be able to safely handle most situations. Riders should be able to keep their feet in position resting on the footbar independently or additional straps will need to be added.