Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Walking in a winter wonderland - have sled will travel

I have been on a mission to figure out how to continue taking my son for walks now that winter is here.  Many of the trails in Calgary receive snow removal but I prefer city hiking on more natural trails.  My son will be three in January so he is certainly capable of walking by himself but I want to go for longer walks than he is able to accomplish without assistance.  I also like to take him for walks when he needs a nap because he has abandoned the idea of napping in his bed.  It's almost a guaranteed success that he'll nap in his Chariot or sled if he's tired enough.

Will sleep anywhere

Last winter I used the Chariot for most of our walks and though it's still my preferred way of transporting a 37lb toddler without killing my back or hips, it is difficult to push through soft snow.  Many of our paths in Calgary are packed down pretty quickly after a snow fall but if you want to venture into the natural areas, you need something that can travel over snow a bit better.  We bought the ski attachment for the chariot but I found it to be time-consuming to convert the stroller into a sled and thus only tried twice all winter.  We only used the skis when we were in the mountains actually skiing.  For that it worked reasonably well.

The Chariot works super well for skating

Skiing with the Chariot
In addition to the chariot, we've tried using sleds as well but my son is scared of riding on a toboggan style sled.  I guess he's afraid he'll fall out.  Last winter we used an antique wooden sled with steel runners on it that we found in my in law's garage.  My husband would have taken rides in it when he was a baby.  It was awesome but sadly is now too small for my ginormous toddler.  When Noah was a baby we used a Pelican Sled that had a wind cover to go over it.  Again, super sled that I highly recommend, but much too small for him now.

The first and last time this season Noah would ride in his normal toboggan sled

The Pelican baby sled

Our vintage baby sled

Enter the next generation of sled; the ski Pulk.  Wikipedia has the following definition and description for a pulk:
"A pulk (from Finnish pulkka)[1] is a Scandinavian short, low-slung small toboggan used in sport or for transport, pulled by a dog or a skier. The name of the sport is pulka. The sled can be used to carry supplies such as a tent or food, or transport a child or other person. In Norway, pulks are often used by families with small children on skiing trips (small children being pulled by the parents). More commonly, it is used to transport children when walking, or by the children for tobogganing downhill; this mode of transport requires a snow cover. Pulks are nowadays made of plastic, which makes them cheap to buy."
Now while I wish that they were in fact "cheap", new ones in the United States and Canada costing upwards of  $500, they are great for transporting small children.  My son loves the pulk because it is similar to his chariot.  He has a back rest, it has sides on it, and he isn't going to tip out in deep snow as easily as he would in a regular toboggan.  I can also cover him up when it's cold like I could with the Chariot or the Pelican sled and I can wrap blankets around him.  I wish we had a dog to pull our pulk, but sadly, it is just my husband and myself that share the burden of pulling a 50lb sled on our winter explorations. 

My husband has been pulling the pulk on our x-country ski trips so far this season and I knew that it was difficult to pull but little did I have any idea just how hard it was.  I tried taking Noah out to some local ski trails for a hike and I couldn't pull him up the tiniest of hills.  It took Grandma and myself pulling and pushing to get him to the top of the hills.  Going down was awesome and because of the waist belt and poles attached to the pulk, it never caught up to me, passed me, or hit me in the ankles.  I was really looking forward to using the pulk during the week while my husband was working to take my son for walks.  I had visions of snow shoe trips, winter hikes, and day trips in the mountains,  happily pulling Noah in his new sled.

Skiing with the pulk

Hiking with the pulk

I wasn't quite ready to give up though.  I had the idea of attaching a simple rope to the front of the pulk where the bars would normally attach it to the waist belt.  This way I could pull the pulk like a normal sled.  The waist belt wasn't comfortable on me and the poles cut into my hips.  I also knew I'd be much stronger using my full body weight rather than pulling from my hips and lower back alone.  Success!  I managed to pull the pulk up Nose Hill to access one of my favorite natural areas in the city yesterday.  I won't lie and say it was easy.  It would be a guaranteed weight loss plan if I repeated that hike every day.  The victory was sweet though and we had a glorious walk on top of the hill overlooking the snowy mountains in the distance.  Noah enjoyed walking on top of Nose Hill and then had a pleasant ride down to the bottom.  It's much harder pulling it down hill without the waist belt and poles but we managed with perhaps minor bruises on my ankles from being hit from behind on more than one occasion. 

On top of Nose Hill - city hiking at its best!

Freedom to get out and enjoy winter doing what I love best is now restored to me.  Have sled will travel! 

Notes on shopping for a pulk:
We bought the Kindershuttle ski pulk from Wilderness Engineering.  We're happy with it for the most part but you should definitely do your research as there are many models to choose from.  What works for one family may not work for another.  Also, make sure the plastic windshield is rated for the temperature you intend to take your sled out in.  We bought ours second hand and the windshield had been replaced with a plastic that is definitely not durable enough for a Rocky Mountain winter.  It cracked on our first trip skiing.

What is your favorite method of transporting small children in winter?


  1. I like the Chariot ski kit for skate or xc skiing. Also put studded tires on my bike and either us the ski kit or bike kit to get around. We also have a Mountain Boy sled for short trips.

  2. I push the Chariot with the skis on the back, and the jogging wheel out front. Works awesome! :)

  3. Some great ideas. If you're looking for more sledding hills, you can check out for a map of local hills, and add your own for others to locate and enjoy as well. Many sleds will thank you! :)

  4. I need some ideas for keeping toddlers feet warm in the pulk while skiing?

    1. Hopefully I just answered your question in the email I got - if it was from you?
      We wrap our son in a down coat or sleeping bag and it works well.