Sled or toboggan: what’s the difference?

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Sleds and sledges are used for transportation over low friction terrain. Sleds have a flat surface with skids or rails, while sledges are raised at the front. Both have been used extensively in Nordic climates. Toboggans are flat sleds with limited steering ability, while bobsleds are designed for speed and racing.

Sleds and sledges are both used to transport people and goods over terrain that has a limited amount of friction, such as snow or ice. Both have been used extensively in Nordic climates since before the invention of the wheel. Toboggans and toboggans appear in sporting events, children’s winter games, and as a means of transit in some regions. While similar in concept, the sled and toboggan are different in construction.

A sled consists of a flat surface with attached skids or rails. The surface of the sled is lifted off the snow by the skids, which slide along the top of the snow. Sledging is a popular outdoor sport in many snowy countries. For downhill sledding, no power is needed because the weight of the sled and its rider will propel the sled forward. Flat land requires some sort of energy, usually supplied by livestock. When hitched to livestock such as horses, a sleigh is often referred to as a sled or sled.

Although sledges have romantic connotations for most modern humans, they were the primary mode of transportation in ice-bound countries up until the twentieth century. Some regions of the world still rely heavily on sledges for transportation when roads are inaccessible. A sled can be very light, designed to carry two or three people and a minimal amount of luggage, or it can be designed for heavier use. In some northern countries, sleigh rides are a popular winter event and usually end in a warm shelter with hot drinks and a fire.

A relative of the sled is the bobsled, which is a long narrow sled equipped with a steering mechanism. The bobsleigh is designed for speed and usually seats one or two people for racing. Originally, a bobsled was made by joining two sleds together, although modern bobsleds are built specifically for bobsled use. Bobsleighs are used for sport in many northern countries and even appear at the Winter Olympics.

A toboggan, or flat sled, is a flat surface that is raised at the front. A traditional sled is made of wood, although other substances can also be used. No skates are mounted on a toboggan – the toboggan is itself a giant skate. Sleds can be dragged across the ground by people, dogs or other livestock and appear to have originated in Canada. The term for sledding comes from the Micmac Indians of Canada.

Toboggans have limited steering ability from the toboggan deck, although harnessed people or animals can steer it. The sleds can be steered from the inside with the use of cables attached to the runners, which will rotate them at will. Sleds and toboggans come in all sizes, from inexpensive plastic children’s toys to large industrial models designed to move large amounts of heavy equipment and supplies in northern areas.

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