The snow is falling in the mountains all around Seattle and I can't help but get giddy with excitement about all our coming adventures in the snow this winter. My daughter will finally be old enough to play in the snow, I'm planning on building a really sweet Snow Guy with my nephew, and we've got all sorts of gadgets and gear to make the most of the winter conditions. Last year we profiled what is quite possibly the coolest winter toy ever, but I couldn't help revisiting the ESLA Kicksled now that it looks like we will get to use it sometime in the near future.
When I first saw the ESLA Kicksleds, my first thought was “I want one” but then it was quickly followed with “but what would I do with it?” Clearly the desire to try something new and exciting beat out any doubts I had about whether or not I could actually use it; I just had to have it. Once it arrived, I was literally speechless at how the Kicksled package engulfed our abnormally large front porch. It was clear to me that this was no toy; this was a mode of transportation. Case in point: the footprint of the Kicksled is bigger than most motorcycles.
But, before I get too far, I have to answer the question I know most of you are asking. A Kicksled, eh? Allow me to explain…. Handmade in Finland since 1933, the ESLA Kicksled is like a scooter-ish, ski-ish, sled-ish seat that sits upon rails that you can ride with reckless abandon over both ice and snow. The Kicksled's standard metal ice rails come with plastic covers that attach easily for snow and allow you to ride over drifts instead of through them. To manuever the Kicksled, you simply kick the ground between the rails like a scooter while riding on the foot plates on top of the metal rails behind the seat. Unfortunately, in this case, a picture really is necessary to properly describe the Kicksled...
Two people can ride the Kicksled at once, one on the rails and the other in the birch seat (which can support up to 300 pounds), which means that riding an ESLA Kicksled is really double the fun. However, the Kicksled can also be ridden alone, with one person riding on the rails and then you're free to really rip it up on snow and ice. As much fun as it is to ride, it really can be practical in really snowy climates. Some people actually use their Kicksleds as transportation, taking it grocery shopping, to pick up and drop off kids at school, and even to work.
The next question I'm guessing you're asking is how you steer the the Kicksled. Instead of having a steering wheel, or handlebars that turn the rails, you simply twist the handlebars in the direction you would like to turn and push with your feet at the same time and the whole frame torques to allow for sideways steering. It takes some getting used to at first, but before long we were pros at it, being able to navigate down hills and turn without using the entire cul-de-sac.
On our first trial run with the Kicksled was on a vacant lot that had been sitting under snow for quite some time. The conditions were not the best for snow sports of any kind since the snow was deep and slightly crunchy. The areas with pavement underneath compacted well under the Kicksled rails and were fairly easy to navigate through, but, the farther into the field we went, the more the ground underneath the snow gave and would cause us to sink in the snow when we stepped off the sled. The Kicksled still performed well under these conditions, but it was quite a workout to move fast across the field and carrying a passenger in the seat made for an even harder run, especially when your kicking leg only had non-compacted snow to push off with.Exhausted but exhilarated, we wore ourselves out within an hour. We dusted off the Kicksled and got it ready for transport by car (or rather, SUV), which consisted of unscrewing 2 wing nuts and folding down the Kicksled seat and handle so that the entire sled was as flat as possible for the ride back home.
Our next run with the Kicksled came with a surprise snowstorm that hit the Seattle metro area and iced over our neighborhood completely. Even though it was almost midnight, we text messaged our favorite late-night loving neighbors and asked if they wanted to try out our awesome winter toy with us. Bundled and excited, we quickly re-assembled the Kicksled and a minute later we were off. No planning, no SUV and no mountain. But, it was oh, so much fun.
We kicked down the slushed sidewalks and onto the ice covered road, gliding along with ease and very little effort, even with full-sized adult passengers on the Kicksled seat. The most amazing aspect was how little snow was actually required to keep you moving. We found ourselves cruising over six inch drifts, through patches of barely an inch and onto bare ice you could hardly see. We weaved back and forth from the streets to sidewalks, up and over the driveway cutouts catching air the average eleven year old would scoff at. But it was fun nonetheless, and much more exciting than our average weeknight. From back alleys to main drags, flat surfaces to hills, we conquered them all, while getting curious looks from every passing car.
Going downhill is just as fun as you'd imagine, with all the speed of a sled but with more control. But, what was extremely surprising was how much fun even a level surface could be on the Kicksled. It’s the kind of fun that makes you (almost) wish you lived in the arctic and had snow year-round so you could ride it everyday. Picturing yourself running errands, taking long winding rides through your town and parking it at your office pop into your head and really make you wish you didn’t have to wait so long between snow seasons.
http://www.goslide.ca/ is the Canadian distributor of the ESLA Kicksled, and happily ships to the U.S. They have a great site where you can see videos of the Kicksled in action.
Price: $209 - $279 (CAD) for the various size sleds. Sizes are small to extra-large, a sizing chart for which is available on the GoSlide site… for anyone who actually knows the metric system. We ordered the extra large because hubby is tall (6'3"), and I'm glad we did because I'd rather have it too large than too small.
Overall: Simple and fun to use, yet completely functional as a form of transportation... and you can race it.
**Photos courtesy of TLC Photography, ESLA, and our late night neighbor