Sledding at North Hill circa 1978.

Although my natural inclination in winter is to hibernate, I’m also determined that my son, who is four, gets some fresh air every day. So we bundle up, and we try to find things to do outdoors, despite the cold. This year it seems we’ve had snow on the ground every single day, which somewhat limits the options. Except for sledding: we can go sledding pretty much anytime we want to!

I don’t remember there being quite so much snow in winter when I was a kid. Or perhaps my mother, who hates the cold, just managed to get my sister and me to avoid noticing it. I would have gone sledding every day, if given the option. There’s really nothing like it.

Here on the South Shore, everybody has access to a hill — perhaps not in his or her own yard, but somewhere in town. Many school playgrounds have suitable sledding hills, which are accessible to the public after classes have ended for the day. Plus, some towns have other open space parcels that welcome sledders: think Coast Guard Hill in Marshfield or the Pembroke Community Center. Then there are the unofficial sledding spots – country clubs and other large spaces that don’t actively solicit sledders, but also seem to turn a blind eye to their presence. We all have our favorites. Of all things, the fenced-in section between the on- and off-ramps of the rest area at Exit 5 in Plymouth is now a popular sledding spot.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m thinking a lot more about the safety aspects of riding a molded sheet of plastic down a hill dotted with adrenaline-fueled children. Sometimes it’s just plain scary. Few people can steer a sled effectively. Even those who can have to watch out for those walking back up the hill – people who may be tired and thus taking a meandering route. The experts now recommend that sledders wear a helmet. I try to be a conscientious parent, but I’m still wrestling with that one.

Some of the other sledding guidelines are easier to follow. Those below are provided by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Have fun out there! Winter will be over before we know it . . .

Simple Rules For Sledding
1. Sit face-forward (never head-first or standing).
2. Go down the hill one at a time (one person per sled).
3. Keep arms and legs within the sled.
4. If you fall off the sled, move out of the way.
5. Walk up the side of the hill, leaving a sled path for others.
6. Roll off a sled that won’t stop.
7. Never ride a sled being pulled by a moving vehicle.

Location For Sledding
1. Choose a hill with a manageable slope and a long path.
2. Avoid slopes that end in a street, parking lot, pond or other hazards.
3. Make sure the hill is free of jumps, bumps and obstacles, such as trees or fences.
4. Never ride into a snow bank – it may have a hidden object (rock or tree stump) within it.
5. Choose snowy hills and avoid icy surfaces.
6. Sled in the daylight when visibility is good.
7. Know the outside temperature – it can be too cold to sled.

Clothing For Sledding
1. Wear a helmet.
2. Wear sensible clothing for the winter (hats, mittens, waterproof clothes and footwear).
3. Clothes should be dry (if wet, change them).
4. Choose appropriate clothing to prevent strangulation (no scarves or drawstrings).
5. Avoid inflatable inner tubes or sled substitutes such as trays, cardboard boxes, or automobile hoods – they are difficult to steer, stop and secure (wooden sleds are preferred).

Adult Supervision
1. A responsible adult should be present.
2. Children under 12 years of age should be actively watched.
3. Children under 5 years of age should have an adult sled with them.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
January 2011

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 13 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com.