What Is Kick Sledding? (Complete Guide for Beginners)

Ever been intrigued by the idea of kick sledding? Wondered how it feels to glide through snowy landscapes using a kick sled? You’re in the right place.

What is kick sledding?

Kick sledding is a popular winter sport where a participant stands on a specially designed sled and propels themselves forward by kicking off the ground with one foot. This low-impact activity is suitable for all ages and can even involve dogs or horses.

In this ultimate guide for beginners, you’ll learn everything you need to know about kick sledding.

What Is Kick Sledding? (Explanation + Video)

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Picture of a woman on a kick sled - What Is Kick Sledding
I made this image – What Is Kick Sledding?

Kick sledding, or “spark” as it’s known in Scandinavian countries where it originated, is a popular form of winter transportation.

It combines the fun of sled riding with the practicality of walking or skiing.

In its most basic form, a kick sled is a chair attached to a pair of elongated metal runners that extend towards the back.

To propel yourself forward, you stand on one runner, kick off the ground with your free foot, then glide on the snow.

It’s similar to pushing a scooter, but on a winter landscape. It’s a great way to get around in snowy conditions and an excellent low-impact exercise.

Here is a good video about the basics of kick sledding:

YouTube video by ResortSleds – What Is Kick Sledding?

The Quick History of Kick Sledding

Kick sledding was born in Scandinavia in the 19th century as a practical means of winter transportation.

It soon evolved into a form of recreation, and eventually into the competitive sport we know today.

This rich history and unique design are part of what drew me into trying out kick sledding.

Types of Kick Sleds

There are various types of kick sleds, each designed to suit different needs, skill levels, and snow conditions.

Here are a few you might come across:

  • Standard Kick Sleds: These are the most common type, great for beginners. They have a basic design with a seat and metal runners.
  • Racing Kick Sleds: These are lightweight and streamlined for competitive speed sledding. They’re usually used in kick sledding races.
  • Touring Kick Sleds: These are designed for long-distance sledding or for carrying heavier loads. They often have additional features such as brakes or steering mechanisms.
  • Children’s Kick Sleds: Smaller and often more colorful, these are designed for children to safely enjoy kick sledding.

Who Is Kick Sledding For?

Kick sledding is for everyone.

Its simplicity and accessibility make it an ideal winter activity for people of all ages and abilities.

Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast looking for a new challenge, an active family seeking a fun and engaging way to enjoy the snowy season together, or someone seeking a gentle, low-impact form of exercise, kick sledding is a fantastic option.

Furthermore, because kick sledding is easy to learn and doesn’t require any special skills, it’s great for beginners.

It offers a unique blend of fun, fitness, and outdoor exploration that appeals to a wide range of people.

Getting Started with Kick Sledding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Kick sledding is an exciting and accessible winter sport that requires minimal equipment and basic physical fitness.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started on your kick sledding journey.

Step 1: Choose the Right Equipment

Kick sleds come in various sizes and styles, so you’ll want to find one that fits you well.

The handlebars should reach roughly to your waist when standing on the ground.

The sled should feel comfortable and easy to control when you stand on the runners.

Consider the material of the sled, as well – traditional wooden sleds offer a classic look and feel, while modern metal ones might provide more durability and speed.

Step 2: Dress Appropriately

Just like with any winter sport, dressing in layers is key.

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating middle layer, and top it off with a waterproof outer layer. Don’t forget warm socks, gloves, and a hat.

Wearing a helmet is also a good idea, especially for beginners, for added safety.

Step 3: Find Your Balance

Before you start moving, spend some time getting a feel for the sled.

Stand on one runner and grasp the handlebar, then shift your weight from foot to foot. This will help you get a sense of the sled’s balance and how it responds to your movements.

Step 4: Start Kicking

Once you feel comfortable balancing on the sled, it’s time to start moving.

Push off gently with your free foot and let yourself glide forward.

Try to keep your balance centered over the sled, and use your standing foot to steer as you glide.

Step 5: Learn to Steer

Steering a kick sled is all about subtle weight shifts.

To turn, lean slightly in the direction you want to go, letting your weight help guide the sled around the turn.

Don’t be discouraged if you find turning challenging at first – with practice, it will become more intuitive.

Step 6: Practice Stopping

Stopping safely is crucial.

You can stop a kick sled by stepping off the runner and planting your foot in the snow, or by using a brake if your sled has one.

Practice stopping in a safe, open area before venturing onto busier trails.

Step 7: Gradual Progression

Start by kick sledding on flat, open areas before gradually moving to more challenging terrains.

As you gain confidence and your balance improves, you can start to tackle gentle hills and busier trails.

Remember, the key to mastering kick sledding is practice.

Don’t be discouraged if you struggle initially. With time, you’ll find your rhythm and be able to glide effortlessly over the snow.

Kick Sledding Techniques

Mastering a few basic techniques can significantly enhance your kick sledding experience:

  • Kicking Technique: Your push-off foot is your powerhouse. It’s important to push off firmly with your foot and smoothly transfer your weight to the gliding foot. In the beginning, your kicking leg might tire quickly, but with time, you’ll build endurance.
  • Glide and Switch: After each kick, allow the sled to glide as far as it can before kicking again. Once your kicking leg begins to tire, switch to the other foot. This not only gives the tired leg a break but also helps you develop balance and strength in both legs.
  • Turning: Learning to navigate turns can be tricky. The key is to lean into the turn slightly and gently use your body weight to help steer the sled. Try to anticipate your turns and start leaning before you reach the corner.
  • Stopping: There are two effective ways to stop. You can either step off the runner and plant your foot firmly in the snow, effectively acting as a brake, or use a sled brake if your sled comes equipped with one. It’s a good idea to practice stopping in a safe, open space before venturing onto busier trails.

Is Kick Sledding Safe?

Kick sledding, like any other outdoor sport, comes with its own risks.

However, it is generally considered a safe and low-impact activity suitable for a range of ages and fitness levels.

The risks are minimal if you follow a few key safety tips:

  • Always check the weather and trail conditions before heading out.
  • Wear appropriate gear and clothing, including a helmet if you’re a beginner.
  • Know your limits and start with easy trails before progressing to more challenging ones.
  • Learn and practice proper techniques for stopping and steering.

In essence, with a bit of common sense and a respect for your surroundings and capabilities, kick sledding can be a very safe activity.

Can You Kick Sled With Dogs?

Yes, you can definitely kick sled with dogs.

This is known as “dog kick sledding” or “sparkjoring” (from the Norwegian term ‘spark’ for kick sled and ‘joring’ for pulling).

It’s an excellent way to exercise high-energy dogs in the winter.

In dog kick sledding, one or more dogs are harnessed and attached to the kick sled.

The dogs then pull, while the person on the sled helps by kicking.

It’s a fun and engaging activity for both dogs and humans, but it’s essential to ensure your dogs are healthy, adequately trained, and enjoy pulling before you start.

Can You Kick Sled With a Horse?

While it’s less common, kick sledding with horses, also known as “horsejoring,” is possible.

The principle is similar to dog kick sledding, with one significant difference — the size and power of the horse.

Because of this, horsejoring often involves a bigger, stronger sled and requires more experience and skill to control.

It’s crucial to ensure the horse is trained, comfortable with the sled, and in good health before attempting horsejoring.

As always, the safety and wellbeing of the animal should be the top priority.

Kick sledding with a horse can be an exhilarating experience, combining the thrill of speed with the beauty of a winter landscape.

However, it’s not for everyone and should be approached with respect and caution.

If you’re interested in horsejoring, consider seeking guidance from an experienced practitioner or professional trainer.

Kick Sledding Trails – Where to Kick Sled?

One of the great things about kick sledding is that you can do it almost anywhere there’s snow.

However, some places are particularly well-suited for this activity.

Here are a few places where you might consider kick sledding:

  • Local Parks: Parks often have suitable terrain and enough space for kick sledding. Just be sure to check local regulations.
  • Golf Courses: In the off-season, these can make fantastic kick sledding trails. They typically have a mix of flat areas and gentle hills, which is perfect for beginners.
  • Frozen Lakes: Flat, open, and often snowy, frozen lakes can be great for kick sledding. Make sure the ice is thick and safe before venturing out.
  • Winter Trails: Many places have trails specifically maintained for winter sports. These can be great for kick sledding, offering a mix of terrain and beautiful scenery.
  • Scandinavia: If you’re willing to travel, Scandinavia is the birthplace of kick sledding. Here you’ll find a wealth of trails and a rich sledding culture.

Essential Gear for Kick Sledding

Just like any winter sport, proper gear is essential for safety and comfort in kick sledding.

Here’s a list of must-haves:

  • Warm Clothes: Layer up! Dress in warm, breathable, and moisture-wicking clothes to stay dry and comfortable.
  • Snow Boots: Boots with good grip are crucial for effective kicking and preventing slips.
  • Gloves: Protect your hands from the cold with insulated, waterproof gloves.
  • Helmet: While not always necessary, a helmet can provide safety, especially for beginners.
  • Headlamp: If you plan to kick sled in the evening or early morning, a headlamp can help you see and be seen.

Choosing the Right Kick Sled

Selecting the right kick sled can be daunting for beginners. Here are a few considerations that helped me make my choice:

  • Size: Kick sleds come in different sizes. Choose one that fits your height and weight.
  • Material: Aluminum frames are light and durable, whereas wooden ones offer a more traditional feel and aesthetic.
  • Runner Material: Steel runners are common and suitable for a variety of conditions, but plastic runners can provide better glide on softer snow.
  • Use: Are you using it for leisure, exercise, or racing? This will determine the type of sled you need.

Final Thoughts: What Is Kick Sledding?

Try kick sledding for yourself – I think you’ll enjoy the change of pace from traditional sledding.

If you’re into sledding, skiing, and other cold-weather activities, check out some of our other articles below.

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