Sometimes the combination of ingenuity and necessity make for fun things, born out of a way to make life simpler and easier while providing some fun along the way.
Or sometimes something designed to be fun turns out to be quite functional.
Maybe that explains kick-sleds. Envision a down-sized dog sled sans the dog.
That’s a kick-sled.
However, rather than one dog or a team of happy, vociferous canines propelling the rider and sled, a kick-sled user simply stands with one foot on the sled – much as they would a traditional dogsled – propelling forward by kicking back with their other foot to glide the sled forward.
That’s the ingenuity of a kick-sled. A person doesn’t always have to have a dog or dog team handy to get from Point A to Point B when there’s too much snow to get around otherwise. That might be why kick-sleds can come in handy in places like cities in Scandinavian countries, which is also where they were developed.
Granted, one could get around on a snowmobile but most cities don’t really like or allow snowmobiles within their jurisdictional confines.
Kick-sledding is a combination of cross-country skiing and dogsledding, becoming increasingly popular in Scandinavian countries as well as Canada and northern United States. It’s even a way some Scandinavians get around grocery shopping or running other errands, Fort Stevenson State Park Manager Chad Trautman described.
Trautman learned that while researching kick-sleds and exploring the possibility of adding more winter recreational opportunities for park visitors. The park, located three miles south of Garrison on Lake Sakakawea, added Finnish-made kick-sleds to their rental fleet of cross-country skis, snowshoes, and fat tire bikes in early 2020.
A total of 23 sleds are available. They’re based on a person’s height: The park has four fitting children less than 3 feet tall, four each for children 3 to 4 feet in height; people 4 to 5 feet tall; those 5 feet to 5 feet, 7 inches tall; people from 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet, 11 inches in height; and another four for anyone 6-feet and taller.
The park’s kick-sled fleet began with one each in the various height ranges, growing their fleet since 2020. They rent for $15 per day in addition to the park’s daily entrance fee or annual pass.
Sled manufacturers also make a dog harness to turn a kick-sled into an actual dogsled.
The trickiest part beginner kick-sled users could encounter might be learning the nuances of turning, Trautman suggested. In other words, a possible face-plant might be in the works but it’s all part of the potential learning curve as it would be for any new activity. Heck, a wipe-out can happen to even the most experienced folks and a person isn’t usually going that fast, anyway.
With a little practice and sense of humor, kick-sledding is yet another diverse winter recreational opportunity that’s quite family-friendly. Some of the kick-sleds are outside at the park’s Visitor Center, which tends to pique people’s curiosity to try them, Trautman described. Several park trails are maintained for activities like kick-sleds.
The smaller toddler-sized sleds – those fitting children less than 3 feet tall, for example – can interlock with kick-sleds designed for taller adults. If a youngster tuckers out, they can simply hook onto the bigger kick-sled and ride along, Trautman added.
Fort Stevenson State Park’s Visitor Center hours are meant to accommodate winter recreation users, providing additional equipment rental opportunities and the all-important restrooms. It’s open on weekends, as well as during the normal business week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except holidays. A pot of hot chocolate is usually on, as well – and it’s free.
The park also rents fat tire bikes ($8 an hour or $50 per day) along with Nordic cross-country skis and poles and snowshoes and poles for $15 per day.
Trail conditions are updated on the park’s Facebook and Instagram social media pages. People can also contact Fort Stevenson State Park, (701) 337-5576 for updates and rental reservations.
Reprinted courtesy of The Northern Sentry.