Winter is just around the corner, and the first snowflakes are the perfect time to start thinking of winter sports. Sledging is one of the most popular pastimes for snowy conditions, with lots of fresh air, exercise and fun – not only for children. A good-quality sledge is essential for any trip to the slopes, and is also a popular Christmas gift. TÜV SÜD’s product expert, Martin Schmied, knows the marks of quality and what to look for when purchasing.
No two sledges are the same. Before purchasing, consider the question of whether you need a sports toboggan for challenging expeditions to the mountains or a simple all-purpose sledge that can be used by adults and children alike. The latter is classified as a toy and must comply with the safety regulations in EU Directives and display the CE mark. Sledges are available in metal, plastic and wood, and there are even inflatable models on the market. Adult sledgers are advised to choose high-quality models in ergonomic design, such as sports or racing toboggans. If possible, the best procedure is to borrow or hire the sledge you are considering and test it in action. The simplest models are plastic ‘saucer-style’ or ‘UFO’ sledges’ or mini-bobs; however, they turn the fun into more of an endurance test by making the sledger feel the full impact of every bump in the ground. Some plastic models are comfortably cushioned or include special spring elements. “As a basic ground rule, we recommend avoiding sledges without steering elements. These ‘tea tray’-style sledges are particularly popular with children, but they are virtually uncontrollable, and thus extremely dangerous”, explains Martin Schmied.
Before purchasing a new sledge, take the time to examine it in detail. Are all edges and corners smooth, rounded and free from projecting screws, nails or rivets? If rough surfaces, splinters or elements involving potential crushing or shearing hazards are visible at first glance, avoid that model! “Even the longest hill ends in a valley, so safe braking is vital. Sledges that do not permit the rider to brake with their feet must be fitted with a separate brake”, advises the TÜV SÜD expert. In addition to the choice of a safe design, safety depends on taking the time to read the user instructions carefully. Parents should also explain the information in detail to their children. It is also helpful to practise a few skills, like braking and steering, with the kids in advance on a smaller slope away from the crowds. Parents should also ensure their children head off well protected for whizzing down the slopes; kitted out with suitable clothing for snow that is waterproof, insulated against the cold and breathable, as well as protective gear like helmet, gloves and sturdy shoes, they will be ready to have fun. The slope must be suitable for sledging; obstacles like trees or tree-stumps, posts or fences are all risk factors. Check the site carefully first, or – better still – stick to sledging hills that are specifically signposted as such.
The GS (Tested Safety) mark or the TÜV SÜD Product Service octagon provide reliable guidance for undecided consumers. These quality marks show that the products have been put through their paces in the laboratory and meet high standards of quality. In addition, well-written and clear user information or instructions are an initial indicator for the quality of the product. The instruction booklet should contain useful information on key details including assembly, maintenance and maximum load and tips for safe use. “To ensure your sledge continues to give you pleasure for a long time, we recommend careful storage when the fun is over. Keep the sledge dry and avoid excessive heat – which means never leaning it against a radiator”, advises Schmied. When dusting off an older sledge from the cellar or attic, make sure to run an eye over the material first. Screws may have worked loose after the summer break, or the material may have become brittle or fatigued. If plastic sledges have visible hairline cracks or discolouration, they must be disposed of. “These defects are a clear warning that the material has reached the end of its service life and may crack on the next ride. It’s always best to act on the principle of ‘better safe than sorry’”, concludes Schmied.
Press-contact: Heidi Atzler