Winter holidays are made all the more merry with the addition of some outdoor recreation. Sleighs and sleds are par for the Christmas course, especially when a bounty of snow is in the forecast.

Sledding has been part of snowy celebrations for ages. Sledding is a fun-filled activity, but it can be made an even better time — and a little safer — if revelers learn a little more about it.

Sled styles

Sleds come in many different styles, each with its own advantages. Sleds with metal blades will work like ice skates, balancing riders’ weight on two metal runners. These sleds can work well during icy conditions or with hard-packed snow. Toboggans can fit multiple people, which can increase the fun factor and downhill speeds. Saucer-style sleds are good for one or two people. Foam liners on some saucers can absorb shock for riders, making those downhill bumps a little easier on the backside. Keep in mind that sleds with steering mechanisms are easier to control, which can equate to safer sledding.

Layer up

It is best to dress in layers when going sledding. Even if it seems warm at home, it may be colder and windier at the top of hills. Sweating when it’s cold out can increase a person’s risk for hypothermia. According to experts at Timberline Trails, a person who works up a sweat and comes in contact with ambient air when taking a break will feel an immediate chill. This is called evaporative danger, and can be remedied by dressing in layers and trying to stay dry.

Invest in a helmet

Sledding requires the use of a helmet. At high speeds, a blow to the head can cause a concussion or worse.

Let others go first

Wait until some sledders have already gone downhill, allowing them to compact the snow, which should make for a smooth ride.

Choose safe hills, such as those that are free of bare spots, holes, trees and obstructions, and do not end abruptly at a road. Hills with a long, flat areas at the end make for easy, safe stopping.

Safety first

Put safety first when sledding. Sled during the daytime so visibility is better. Keep arms and legs on the sled, and only sled feet-first, advises the National Safety Council.

By keeping these guidelines in mind, sledders can make sure this popular winter activity is as safe as it is fun.

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