Canadians are no strangers to heavy snowfalls during the winter months. These days, outdoor winter activities are becoming increasingly popular given the lack of excitement in our current pandemic state. If you’re looking for a fun and active way to spend time with your family, may we suggest tobogganing or sledding at your nearest hill? Don’t worry, it’s COVID-safe as long as you follow social distancing protocols, says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases consultant at Toronto General Hospital. Of course, isure has your family’s safety in mind, which is why we’ve gathered this list of tobogganing safety tips to help keep you prepared while on the slopes outdoors.
1. Wear a helmet
This one may not be a first thought to most, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of head injuries people have experienced from tobogganing unsafely. According to a Canadian study, an estimated 2,000 children suffer head injuries in tobogganing accidents per year. Health Canada recommends that all children use a helmet when sledding. A skiing or hockey helmet is preferential over a bicycle helmet, which aren’t tested past -10ºC. Any helmet used should meet the Canadian Standards Associations standards, which can be found here: csagroup.org.
2. Avoid hills with trees
Where possible, you should do some research of your local hills and avoid any with trees or harmful obstacles that could pose a potential injury. This includes fences, walls of any kind, hydrants, crowds and more.
3. Consider run-off
A lot of tobogganing hills are not typically constructed with safety in mind. With that being said, it’s important to keep hill run-off in mind. When sledding, you tend to pick up considerable speed and require enough flat ground at the bottom of the hill to slow down. Be sure to check that your chosen hill doesn’t run onto a dangerous lake or road.
4. Dress warmly
When partaking in Canadian winter activities, it should come as no surprise that we experience extremely cold temperatures during this time of year. If you insist on venturing out in the cold, make sure to layer and dress accordingly. We also suggest packing extra gloves, hats and socks in case yours get wet.
5. Check the weather forecast
In addition to the point above, we highly suggest that you avoid sledding or tobogganing in subzero temperatures. Hypothermia and frostbite are very possible outcomes if venturing out in below zero conditions, so checking the weather beforehand is imperative to your family’s safety.
6. Time of day is important
For maximum visibility, we recommend that you choose to sled during the daytime to avoid obscure vision and injury. If you prefer night runs, make sure your chosen hill is well-lit!
7. Choose your sled wisely
The correct type of toboggan can make all the difference when it comes to safety. Never use one with sharp edges and ensure that the handholds are secure to the sled. If possible, choose a toboggan that has steering capabilities rather than a circular disc to provide maximum control. Sleds or “racers” that are elevated on skis are not recommended because they can reach fast, uncontrollable speeds. Options include inflatable tubes, plastic/foam flat toboggans and hybrids. Another feature to bear in mind is the weight of your sled – you don’t want one that is too heavy because you’ll have to lug it uphill.
8. Always remain seated on a toboggan or sled
This one’s a no brainer, but still important to mention as a reminder. Never stand or lie down when sledding down a hill – sitting up or kneeling is preferred to reduce risk of injury to the head, spine and back. This is one of the many tobogganing safety tips to keep top of mind!
9. Move quick and be aware of surroundings
If you’ve chosen a fresh snowfall to enjoy sledding hills, odds are other families have, too. Always be aware of those around you, especially once you’ve reached the bottom of the hill. Be alert and move quickly to avoid fellow tobogganers that are sledding downhill toward you. Climb either side of the hill safely and out of reach to get back to the top.
10. Adult supervision is highly recommended
We know sledding is an activity most older kids would prefer to do alone, but children (especially under the age of five) should always have parental supervision. For those under the age of five, a parent or adult should always accompany them down the hill for added safety measures.
11. Don’t forget snacks and hot chocolate!
Odds are if you’ll be on the hills for a few hours, you and the kiddos might want a snack. Keep packable snacks handy in the car and stay warm with a thermos of hot chocolate. Added tip: Pack some water bottles for hydration (at least you know they’ll stay cold!)
Now that you’ve got our tobogganing safety tips handy, bundle up, get out outside and have some good ol’ Canadian winter fun!