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Kicksledding for all ages!

Kicksledding for Families

Have you seen more people, of all ages, kicking and gliding around on strange carriages in your area the past few winters?  Well, it’s probably a kick sled and the number of people enjoying this activity/mode of transportation has definitely increased in the U.S. in recent years. 

What is a kicksled?

A kicksled, or “spark” in Scandinavian languages is a small sled that consists of a chair mounted on a set of flexible metal runners that are double in length of the chair. 

How does a kicksled work?

The sled is propelled forward by kicking back with one pushing off the ground between the runners (like a scooter).  There is a handlebar attached to the top of the chair for the driver to hold on to and help steer. 

Kicksled parking at The American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis, MN. Photo courtesy: Scandia Kicksled

History of Kicksleds

The first kicksleds were used in Sweden around 1870 and were made of pure hardwood, including the runners which made them very heavy. In the early 1900s, metal runners were introduced and continue to be the standard. 

Kicksled racing in Scandinavia

In the years 1890 to 1910 kicksled racing was a popular sport, especially in Sweden.  During the 1990s, kicksled racing became a serious sport in Finland, with races up to 60 miles in length and speeds up to 19mph! (Hello quad pain😉!).  The venue for kicksled races was often on frozen lakes that were plowed/shoveled for skating races.

older woman driving the kicksled while a toddler rides
Multiple generations of kicksledders! Photo courtesy: Scandia Kicksleds

Who can kicksled?      

Kicksledding is truly for all ages!  With so many sizes (link size chart) to choose from, there is a sled out there fit for everyone. If you can walk, you can kicksled!

Mom driving kicksled, one kid in backpack, one kid on runners and one kid on kicksled seat
Is it a big hill or a moose ahead?

You decide how fast or slow to go!

Kicksleds can be enjoyed by those who want to go fast and get a good workout or someone who just wants to feel more stable on slippery surfaces. 

They also are enjoyed by families that need to cover more ground, but don’t have kids that can cover that much distance with their own two feet.

Kicksleds are truly for everyone that enjoys getting outside in the winter!

oldest sister driving big kicksled, pulling littlest sister on small kicksled and middle sister skiing behind
Sisters out enjoying kicksledding and skiing after a snowstorm in Alaska
two young girls on stacked kicksleds
You can stack kicksleds and let kids ride if they get tired.

Where to kicksled?

The best terrain for kicksledding is hardpacked snow and icy surfaces.  Ideal places to kicksled are unshoveled sidewalks, unsanded/salted streets, snowpacked walking trails or an area lake.

young boy driving little kicksled, with lots of gear on the seat
Load up the sleds! We are going to a cabin! Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska

Usage

Kicksleds are a perfect “alternative transportation.”  I personally find that we use them most on adventures right from the house to a park or skating rink, a stroll to the bakery, or for bringing our youngest to preschool when the mama taxi isn’t in a morning rush 😉

They are fairly easy to fold down and pack in a vehicle for an adventure that is further from home or to store during the summer.

A kicksled can serve as a bicycle, a wheelbarrow, a grocery cart and a baby stroller, truly an environmentally friendly mode of transportation!

women with large backpack on kicksled filled with firewood.  looks like she is heading to a cabin
Kicksleds are the perfect gear carrier AND transportation to a cabin. Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska
Boy and sister hauling packages on a kick sled
Amelia’s family uses their kicksleds for mail runs

Kicksledding Safety

Depending on the ice/snow conditions, kicksleds can go very fast on downhills! When kicksledding in hilly terrain, be sure to use your judgement, be certain of your own limits and be ready to use your foot as a brake to slow down. 

multiple generations out kicksledding on an street
Multiple generations out enjoying a kicksled adventure. Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska

Kicksledding technique

Turning

With some practice, you can master “driving” your kicksled and turning when necessary.  The steel runners have flex in them and make cornering possible!

To turn left, keep your left foot on the runner and kick with your right foot while pushing your right hand on the handlebars.  Do the opposite to turn right.  When standing on the runners in an exciting descent, you can achieve shaper turns using the handlebar to twist toward the desired direction while also using your feet to push the outside runner forward and the inside runner backwards. This effectively ‘torques’ the entire sled around the corner.

Slowing down/Stopping

To slow a kicksled down or come to a stop, have one foot on a runner with a bent leg (a bent leg will apply more pressure to the runner and more contact to the ground reducing speed). Additionally, hold tight on the handlebars and hang back until your arms are straight. 

Drag your foot between the runners to control speed and keep your center of gravity low to avoid tipping over.

Coasting

When traveling on lower incline terrain and not needing to kick or brake, you can coast by having both feet on the foot pads.  Enjoy the ride, wave to your neighbors, and the savor the rest😉

dad driving kicksled with newborn in front carrier. new mom getting a ride
Perfection! New mom getting a true break and some fresh air! Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska

Additional Kicksledding Tips

Over the years, I have learned to not lean too much on the handlebars, but instead mostly on your feet. This allows there to be greater kicking force. If you can, try changing which foot is kicking every so often. This will prevent fatigue of the one leg and if you kicksled a lot, avoidance of unbalanced muscle mass in your dominant kicking leg😊.

Note that kicksledding IS tiring when you first start. Surprisingly so!

7 year old girl on a T6, 5 year old girl on a T4 an a 4 year old girl on a T2 (Esla kick sleds)
7 year old girl on a T6, 5 year old girl on a T4 an a 4 year old girl on a T2 (Esla sleds)

Maintaining your Kicksled

Kicksleds are VERY low maintenance and can last for multiple generations if cared for correctly.

It is best to store your kicksled out of the elements. During the winter and spring seasons, storing in a covered area is best.

In the off season, it is best to store your kicksled folded and upright.  We put ours in the attic for the summer and fall.

After use, especially when exposed to road salt, rub the blades dry. For long periods of storage, it is a good idea to rub a bit of oil or vaseline on the runners to prevent rust.

woman smiling on kicksled while dog pulls her and sled. Man running out front of them.
Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska

Kicksledding with your dog!

If you have a strong and energetic dog, hooking him/her up to pull you and/or your kids can be a win/win. A fun ride to be pulled by your pet and a way to get your pet’s extra energy out for the day!

Your dog will need a good harness and line (long rope) that can be hooked up to the front bar of the kicksled. Kicksled Alaska often carries the line and also a dog adaptor.

three different sizes of kicksleds in three different colors
Kicksleds in many sizes! Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska

Where to buy in the U.S.

There are a few importers of Kicksleds in the U.S. that ship nationally or if you happen to live close by, of course have local pick up. Here are two of our faves!

Kicksled Alaska

Kicksled Alaska is based in Anchorage, Alaska and they carry the ESLA brand of kicksleds from Finland. In addition to kicksleds, they sell many accessories to outfit your kicksled to your needs. Kicksled Alaska began importing kicksleds to the USA in 2019. The mission of Kicksled Alaska is to build and support a kicksledding culture in Alaska and beyond.

“Our family has been kicking around an ESLA kicksled for over a decade – and it was bought used! The sled is old and weathered, but still provides the same level of wintertime joy today as it did decades ago. ESLA has been manufacturing kicksleds for nearly a century. Their designs and experience are unmatched, and the quality of the product speaks for itself. Plus, their kicksleds and kicksparks are often the sled that wins races in Scandinavia!” 

– Val Walsh, Kicksled Alaska Owner

Scandia Kicksled

Scandia Kicksled is based in Houston, MN and carries the Norax Tarzan brand from Norway. These kicksleds are made out of Maple wood and Metal.

They also ship nationally and carry many accessories to accommodate your personal kicksled needs for kicksledders of all ages!  As a mom who often kicksledded with one kicksled and 3 kids aboard, we found the hammock accessory perfect for the middle sister to use on our lengthier adventures.

“Our kicksleds are made in Norway – which has a rich tradition of kicksledding! It isn’t uncommon to find Norwegians running their errands to local markets using their kicksleds. Norwegian kicksleds have a sturdy steel front bumper (rather than aluminum). The spring steel of the runners have a great flex for maneuverability. We recommend adding the 2 inch poly runners that we sell. They allow the kicksled to coast over both snow and ice. Our kicksleds are sold in Houston, MN (people are welcome to pick them up right there and save on shipping!) Otherwise, we ship around the country. They range in sizes from small, medium, large, and extra large (based entirely on the user’s height).”

– Kristie Fingerson, Scandia Kicksled Owner
Dad pushing two kicksleds together with a son on each sled
Multiple kicksleds in use at once= the minivan of kicksled adventures! Photo courtesy: Kicksled Alaska

Sizes of Kicksleds

There are MANY sizes of kicksleds for all ages.  To determine which size is best for your family, check out the size chart for ESLA sleds here and for brands carried by Scandia Kicksled here.

For even more efficient travel as a family, you can have a kicksled sized appropriately for an adult and either have your child ride on the seat of your kicksled or you can set up a system where they have their own kicksled and you connect a rope from the front of theirs and attach to the handlebars of yours. This works on flat terrain and best to “break free” from each other if descending a hill. As shown in the photo above, the ESLA brand kicksleds work well with a smaller one in front of a larger model.

Girl on a kicksled
Snowsuit: Our favorite from Reimasee more of our favorites here.

Kicksled Accessories

There are many kicksled accessories to accommodate your family make up. 

Kicksled Alaska sells kid seat brackets, foot rests, extra brakes and many other items shown here for the ESLA kicksleds                 

Kicksleds come with the galvanized steel runners, which work well on hard pack snow and ice.  If traveling on softer snow conditions, plastic runners made specifically for kicksleds work well.  If you use theplastic runners, making sure they are cleared from snow/ice can ensure that the kicksled “glides” well the next time you head out.

A kicksled is designed to be used on hard, slippery surfaces like ice or hardpacked snow. To kicksled in deeper, more powdery snow, extra-wide plastic snow runners are attached to the standard, thin runners of the sled. On very smooth, bare ice, the use of traction devices like spiked shoes or crampons improves kicking force.

Scandia Kicksleds sells hammocks (as mentioned above), child seats, plows, baby carriages and more listed here on their site.

If you don’t have one already, grab yourself a kicksled and enjoy cruising around your area streets, trails and lakes this winter!

References:

Kicksledding for families

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