Interesting facts about sleds

A sled, sledge, or sleigh is a land vehicle that slides across a surface, usually of ice or snow.

It is built with either a smooth underside or a separate body supported by two or more smooth, relatively narrow, longitudinal runners similar in principle to skis. This reduces the amount of friction, which helps to carry heavy loads.

There are lots of different types of sleds: bobsleds, luges and skeletons are used for competitive sports, you’ve probably seen them before during the Winter Olympics. They are specially crafted to hold their riders and whip them through the snow as fast as possible.

When it comes to the kinds of sleds that people use just for having fun, there are lots of different options:
• Toboggan – a long sled without runners, the old-fashioned kind are made from wood
• Saucers – a round, curved sled usually made out of metal or plastic
• Flexible Flyer – a steerable wooden sled with thin runners
• Inflatable sled – lightweight sleds

The word “sled” comes from Middle English sledde, which itself has the origins in Middle Dutch word slēde, meaning ‘sliding’ or ‘slider’. The same word shares common ancestry with both sleigh and sledge. The word sleigh, on the other hand, is an anglicized form of the modern Dutch word slee and was introduced to the English language by Dutch immigrants to North America.

The practical use of sleds is ancient and widespread.

The people of Ancient Egypt are thought to have used sledges extensively in the construction of their public works, in particular for the transportation of heavy obelisks over sand.

However, sleds were mostly developed in areas with consistent winter snow cover, as vehicles to transport materials and/or people, far more efficiently than wheeled vehicles could in icy and snowy conditions. Early designs included hand-pulled sizes as well as larger dog, horse, or ox drawn versions.

Sleds and sledges were found in the Oseberg “Viking” ship excavation. The sledge was also highly prized, because – unlike wheeled vehicles – it was exempt from tolls.

The Toboggan sled is also a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada.

The Inuit made their toboggans out of whalebone, while other tribes used birch or tamarack. The sleds had a curved front, to ease traveling over difficult terrain, but had no runners. The design has changed little
since they were first developed – today, most toboggans are made with seven boards of ash or maple, each about 2 inches wide.

Sweden and Norway recorded some early Kicksled Races during the 15th century. The modern sport of sledding (Luge – Skeleton and Bobsledding) originated in St. Moritz, Switzerland in the mid-to-late 19th century when vacationing guests adapted delivery sleds for recreational purposes and from there, it quickly spread to Davos and other Swiss towns and villages.

Until the late 19th century, a closed winter sled, or vozok, provided a high-speed means of transport through the snow-covered plains of European Russia and Siberia. It was a means of transport preferred by royals, bishops, and boyars of Muscovy. Several royal vozoks of historical importance have been preserved in the Kremlin Armoury.

The first official sled race took place in January 1883 on the route from Davos Wolfgang to Klosters. The participants drove with simple but robust wooden sledges which were built by the Wagnerians in Davos.

Tobogganing as a sport probably originated on the slopes of Mount Royal in Montreal. During the late 1880s it spread to the United States, where it had considerable popularity until the early 1930s, when widespread enthusiasm for skiing brought about its popular decline.

Man-hauled sledges were the traditional means of transport on British exploring expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic regions in the 19th and early 20th centuries, championed for example by Captain Scott. Dog sleds were used by most others, such as Roald Amundsen.

A sled dog is a dog used in Arctic climates to pull a sled across snow and ice. The breeds most commonly associated with this work are the Siberian husky, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Eskimo dog, and Laika — all large, powerful dogs with thick coats and high endurance.

The largest sledge measures 10 m (32 ft 9 in) long, 4 m (13 ft 1 in) wide and 3.1 m (10 ft 2 in) tall. The sledge was made by the tourism association of Bergün, Switzerland and pulled through the village on 4 February 2006.

The longest chain of sleds consists of 508 sleds, achieved by Oberpinzgauer Fremdenverkehrsförderungs- und Bergbahnen AG (Austria), in Bramberg, Austria, on 22 January 2017. The chain of sleds travelled down a slope of 600 meters.

The longest sled race is 70 metres (229 ft 8 in) long and was organized by Ski Club Uzwil (Switzerland) in Niederuzwil, Switzerland, on 25 September 2009. The race was organized to allow sledders to race the course one at a time, with individual times clocked for each racer. A total of 1,214 sledders particpated in the 8-hour event with Reto Giersberger (Switzerland) completing in the fastest time of 00:15.084.

The oldest established sled dog trail is the 1,688 km (1,049 miles) Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, USA, which has existed since 1910 and has been the course of an annual race since 1967.

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