24/12/11: Sledging fun on the Gadget Show and in Country Life

My dad in 1961, on a door with a metal sheet underneath. I wonder how it would have fared in the test

Top television viewing this week for me was the Gadget Show’s film for Channel Five, in which Pollyanna Woodward, one of the presenters, tested 20 toboggans at Tamworth Snowcome (see it here – http://tinyurl.com/ce9m762).

I was especially interested because my sister, nephews and I test-rode several sledges in Zermatt in October as research for an article about the joys of sledging for Country Life magazine – which, by the way, is in the shops now as part of a bumper wintry Christmas edition (£3.75 including a travel supplement).

Big air in Gloucestershire, 1961

One design Pollyanna definitely didn’t try was anything that resembled a simple yet speedy toboggan devised by my dad, uncle and aunt, photos of which my uncle sent me when I was researching the CL story.

As you can see, it proved great for getting air over stone terracing in their Gloucestershire garden in 1961.

My uncle - cushions made this toboggan the height of luxury

It was a door, with a metal sheet fastened to its underside. My dad and uncle recall that they strapped cushions to it – no wonder they look so comfortable – and used the ropes that held them down to hold onto. It once had an outing to the Wiltshire Downs, where the pair of them lugged it all the way to the top and began the run down by jumping off a cornice.

My sister inherited the family toboggan gene - she made this sledge (circa 1983) in woodwork and it's still going strong

Anyway, back to the Snowdome. Pollyanna and colleagues set up a laser speed trap to see which was the fastest of the models, whose prices ranged from £14.99 for a UFO plastic disk to the Alurunner, at £472.

Quite rightly, she also gave marks for comfort, manoeuvrability and fun.

Fastest at 21.2mph was the Zumbach Sport (£399.99), which looks like a traditional Rodel sledge, with wooden frame, webbing seat and (I’m guessing) metal runners of some kind.

Pollyanna’s favourite – just like my nephews’ top choice – was a plastic design with steering wheel and handbrake.

This Davos sledge, one of my best birthday presents of all time. I never did get the hang of big air, though. Maybe it needs a cushion

She also loved the Bobski (£55), a British invention that flies along and looks like it might be rather a handful (in a fun way). I have one, and we plan to give it a try this weekend in the Alps – I’ll let you know how it goes. Also in her top five were the extremes, price-wise, of the Zumbach and the UFO.

I’m not sure if she tried one that impressed us greatly – the Zibob, a Swiss-made shaped red box with a handle that “carves” and is as fun for adults as children. Check out the Zibob race schedule for the year here http://tinyurl.com/bolw88w.

Happy sledging, if you’re anywhere near the snow, and remember, some sledges are meant to feel slightly out of control…

PS: 2/1/2012 – you can now see the Country Life article in pdf form by clicking here.

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Filed under Gear, Link to film, Transport

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