Updated: Sep 29, 2021
While many dread the mention of a snowflake, those who have discovered kicksledding wait anxiously for snow to fall so they can explore snowy trails, and often with their four legged furry companions.
Kicksledding is for everyone! Children, adults, dogs... anyone who enjoys getting outside.
Over the years, kicksledding has become quite popular in Canada. In the Maritimes, it's dominated by not only people, but their dogs too! It really is an activity that the whole family can participate in. No need to leave the children behind, each sled has a seat that supports over 300 pounds, or they can have their own. The family dog? They can join too. They can free run, or help you along with the addition of a bridle to your sled, bungee line, and proper pulling harness.
"Several generations have enjoyed using ESLA kicksleds. Kicksleds are used to travel easily over snow and ice, and people in Scandinavia have been using them for many generations. We all have fond memories of kicksledding with our families or going on adventures with our friends.
Today our kicksleds are used in winter for exercise, recreation, wilderness trips, dog sledding, ice fishing, competition, and commuting to school or work."
-Kicksleds - E.S.Lahtinen Oy, https://www.esla.fi/en/kicksleds/
So how does it work?
Well it's quite simple, and if you've ever skied, you should pick it up quite easily. There are foot pads on each runner where you place your feet, and hands go on the handle bars. In order to move, you kick along as if on a scooter. Keep majority of your weight on the supporting leg and rotate legs every 5-10 pushes. If a hill is too sleep to glide up, simply walk behind and push the sled. Enjoy the effortless down hills and slow down by pushing the runners out as if you were to stop on skis or snowplow on skates. You can stop by pushing out or pushing your heel into the snow. You can also add on brake pads which are popular with mushers. The runners are flexible yet sturdy which makes taking tight turns effortless once mastered. Simply lean and twist to the direction you'd like to go. If you tire, take a few minutes to sit on the chair of the sled to catch your breath or take in the scenery before taking off again.
Why should I incorporate a kicksled into my winter adventures?
Well why not? It's fun, exercise, you can gain more ground than just walking. It's quiet and non-disruptive to the environment and trail systems, the sled is just 20 pounds and easy for most to lift over obstacles, you can travel on ice or snow groomed, fresh, or compact, and involve friends, family, and your dog. It can be brought ice fishing, along trap lines, to your local park, wilderness trails, ski trails and can hold supplies for longer adventures. The list can go on, but they're a great transportation method and recreational activity in the winter.
I don't live right by any trails. How do I transport my sled?
Not to worry! ESLA Kicksleds fold down flat and can be transported in or on most vehicles. The original design is 71-79 inches long varying between sizes, and there is even a compact design which is just 54 inches long. With back seats down the original T7 can fit into most SUVs and Hatch backs. If you have roof racks on your vehicle it can be transported on top, or in the back of a truck.
It takes just seconds to fold down the ESLA Kicksled!
The production of the ESLA kick sleds began as early as 1933. Before that, the kick sleds were individual pieces made by a blacksmith. ESLA kick sleds have been the market leader in Finland since the 1970s.
The use of birch as a raw material is one of ESLA's core areas of expertise. The professionalism required to handle it has been acquired through years of experience. Solid birch is durable and hard and is suitable for demanding applications where strength is required in addition to appearance. The wooden parts of the kick sleds are made from a renewable raw material: Finnish birch, which is procured using ecologically acceptable methods.
Ecological, water-based paints have been used in the painting of wooden parts since 2005. The most traditional colour is lacquer, which leaves the beautiful grain patterns of the wood visible. In addition to red and blue, there are many other colours today. The advantage of colour pigments is that they also protect the sun from ultraviolet light and the paint lasts longer.
The legs are made of spring steel, which is a special alloy for kick sleds. In the manufacture of steel, recycled steel is used, which comes from e.g. scrapped cars. The legs are bent with a special machine designed for this purpose. The straightness of the foot is still ensured by hand. After manufacture, the legs are galvanized to prevent rusting. Other metal parts are either galvanized or surface treated with powder paint that does not contain solvents or other substances hazardous to health.
The sleds are not only beautiful and built to last for decades, but ELSA is also very environmentally aware and keeps up a sustainable practice which is always improving.
This sled has become a popular choice for mushers in places like Nova Scotia with inconsistent snow as it only needs an inch of snow to glide, where as traditional dog sleds and other brands require a compact base to be used efficiently. You can find mushers out in the streets in snow storms and occasionally in Tim Hortons drive throughs...
Which size sled do I need?
We suggest the T6 for people under 5'8, the T7 if you are between 5'7" and 6'1. For anyone taller, the T8. We recommend using a sled that isn't too small. If unsure of sizing, size up as there is no issue with using a sled that is bigger as long as you can see over the handle bars! You shouldn't have to hunch over while riding on your sled.
What do I need to Kicksled with my dog?
You're at the right place. Maritime Mushing Supply has everything you need to start! We've been kicksledding with dogs since 2013 and have tried many different products and setups. First, you'll need a bridle. This is a must for your sled to last for many years. The bridle ensures the sled is being pulled from the proper points and will also help track the sled behind your dog. Next is a brake pad. This one is optional, but it's nice to have for slowing down and standing on when your team is stopped to keep them from leaving without you. A snow hook is something else that can be added to keep your team in place, though most 1-2 dog teams go without. A bungee line is a must to keep your dogs body happy and healthy. I prefer to use a bungee line that isn't too stretchy. Our Basic Bungee Line, ZeroDC Bungee Lines, and Bungee Line are popular for kicksledding.
As for harnesses, it really varies by dog. Some popular harness for kicksledding are the ZeroDC Cross Harness, Non-Stop Dogwear Nansen Nome Harness, Free Motion Harness, and Faster Harness. I prefer to put northern breeds in the x-back style, however, they do well in most styles. A short harness can also be used but full length is preferred. The Non-Stop Dogwear Nansen Stick Harness has become a favourite for many with consistent and hard pullers as it was made especially for lower pulling points and taller dogs. I'm a huge fan of how this harness works with the kicksleds and it's my top pick! For giant breeds I recommend a Siwash Harness with the sled attachment from Wilczeck Woodworks.
Any breed can join in on the fun! Here are two border collies pulling a sled on a frozen lake
How do I start mushing with my dog?
Check out This Blog Post for tips on starting with your dog!
The ESLA Kicksled in action:
How to setup your kicksled:
Kicksledding with dogs: