Skiis, Toboggans, and Sleds

In 1991, an ambulance was called to a popular sledding hill. The hill was very icy at the time and conditions allowed sleds to travel farther than they normally would. A young girl went down the hill, hit a building which was at the bottom of the hill and received a severe head injury. Though she survived, she spent many months in rehabilitation. Looking back at the situation and thinking of the circumstances, I probably would not have hesitated to slide down the hill with my daughter . That incident opened my eyes to how deceptive conditions can be on sledding hills.

Sliding down a snow-covered hill is a lot of fun for children and adults alike. This can be a great outdoor activity for the whole family. But without proper safety practices, injuries can happen. As a paramedic I have attended too many tobogganing injuries; those injuries have been as serious as severe head injuries and broken backs. Tobogganing is fun, but teach your children to do it safely.

Skiing, tobogganing, and sledding are all subject to the prevailing weather conditions. Commercial ski areas often post the conditions so that skiers can use appropriate equipment. Traditionally, family tobogganing, sledding and some skiing take place in less formal settings on local, unregulated hills. Safety standards often rest in good judgment and experience. Here are some tips to keep your snow fun safe:

Helmets will reduce the chance of a head injury in skiing, tobogganing, or sledding. Ski helmets have not been standardized in Canada; however, we can rely on the European standards for them. There is no approved tobogganing helmet, but it is known that a hockey helmet is not adequate; a bicycling helmet is more appropriate because it protects against one major blow - after which it must be replaced.

In January 2000, a 10-year-old girl was killed on a ski hill in Banff, Alberta when she lost control and skied into a tree. She sustained severe head injuries.

While this book was being written, a four-year-old boy was killed after his toboggan crashed into a tree. Between 179 to 189 tobogganing - related injuries were treated at Alberta Children’s Hospital alone between March 1990 and February 1995. Half of those were head injuries, and some of those resulted in severe brain damage. Compared to head injuries caused by tobogganing, the figures for head injuries caused by skiing, bicycling and hockey are four to five times greater (Calgary Herald Feb. 5, 1995).

While writing this article a small boy was run over by a car when the sled he was riding on slid onto the road. The car ran over his abdominal area and he received very serious injuries. The driver of the car did not stand a chance in stopping.

This information was taken from the book "Kids for Keeps - Preventing Injuries to Children" by Martin Lesperance. To order this book, go to books and products at or call (403) 225-2011. Sign up for his free safety newsletter at Martin speaks across North America on the topic of injury prevention.

Copyright 1997 SafetyHealth Publishing Inc.

Martin Lesperance is a fire fighter/paramedic and is the author of the best selling book "I Won’t be in to Work Today – Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and Play" Martin delivers keynote presentations dealing with injury prevention. His talks are funny, but still have a strong underlying message. Visit his website at