- A proper snow sled is an entertaining (and exciting) way to spend a snow day, no matter if you’re playing hooky from work or just looking to pass some time on the weekend.
- The best sleds should all have these three things in common: Enough surface area for one to two people to ride comfortably, a design that allows a smooth (and fast) ride, and some form of steering wheel or rope for added stability.
- Our top pick, the Slippery Racer Downhill Xtreme Toboggan Snow Sled, is a swift and stable sled that’s large enough for both an adult and child to share a ride together.
Sledding is a winter pastime that’s as thrilling as it is fun. Not only is it a popular recreational activity for people of all ages but variations of sledding (i.e. the luge, skeleton, and bobsled) are beloved Olympic sports. Regardless of whether you’re gunning for a gold medal or just want to see how fast you can go careening down a snow-filled hill, you’ll always need that one thing that gets you from Point A to wherever you land on Point B: A sled.
But not all sleds are created equal, and you don’t even need a genuine, by-the-book sled to get downhill. In addition to those classic metal and wood sleds, you can also use a plastic toboggan-style sled, an inflatable intertube, and even a round saucer (and who hasn’t just used a garbage lid?).
If you crave the thrill of downhill snow sledding but aren’t sure which sled variant is best, we have you covered: The following guide includes some helpful tips and info on the best sleds for a range of use cases. With one of these sleds, you’ll be able to turn any normal snow day into a snow sled day. They’re also suitable for use with your kids.
Here are the best sleds you can buy:
- Best sled overall: Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan Snow Sled
- Best inflatable snow tube: A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube
- Best classic runner sled: Flexible Flyer Steel Runner Sled
- Best saucer sled: Lucky Bums Powder Coated Metal Saucer
Updated on 12/23/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the introduction for relevancy, revised the copy for each pick, checked the availability of all recommended sleds, and updated the prices and links where necessary.
The Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan Snow Sled was designed for top speeds, but it’s also stable enough for a parent and child to safely enjoy together.
Pros: Fast on most types of snow, fits adult and child, durable plastic body
Cons: Bottom scratches and loses slickness over time
The Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan Snow Sled is the closest adult-sized approximation to the sled I used as a kid. It has the classic plastic toboggan shape with a few upgrades I would’ve been glad to see as a kid but that is certainly enjoyable today.
These include cutout handles for a secure grip and easy carrying, a proprietary IceVex cold-resistant coating that helps prevent cracking and scratching, and construction using such a durable yet flexible plastic that the sled can bend to 90 degrees without breaking.
The bottom of the 48-inch long Slippery Racer toboggan is smooth and slick, helping it to glide over all sorts of snow, from soft, fresh powder to heavier, wetter packed snow. The sled features a slight taper toward the front that increases its dynamic performance and also serves to accommodate a smaller rider during an adult-child tandem ride.
While you should always avoid rocks, trees, and other solid objects during a sled ride, should you endure an impact with some such obstacle, know that the sled can take the abuse without breaking. That’s backed up by a yearlong warranty Slippery Racer throws in with each purchase.
And while the Slippery Racer Downhill XTreme Toboggan is an adult-sized sled, it’s also more than suitable for kids. The site ToyTruckToys.com recommends it for kids over the age of four, calling it a “beginner to intermediate” sled.
Best inflatable snow tube
The A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube gives a swift, comfortable ride down the hill, and its air-filled design cushions riders against the jolts and bumps along the way.
Pros: Smooth and comfortable ride, supports up to 250 pounds, easy to store when not in use
Cons: Requires inflation prior to use, cannot be steered or controlled
One of the best things about an inflatable snow tube is the fact that when it’s not being used, it can be deflated, folded up, and stored in a cabinet or drawer. That makes the A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube a great choice for the apartment-renter for whom free space is at a premium.
This tube can zip riders up to 250 pounds down a snowy hill at great speed. The A-DUDU Inflatable Snow Tube measures 47-inches in diameter, easily supporting larger, taller adults, and is suitable for use by two kids at the same time, provided they’re ready to share those handles.
The rugged PVC exterior of the tube resists tears and punctures and resists cracking even in temperatures as cold as negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The tube inflates quickly by mouth or with an air pump and stays sealed shut thanks to a double-locking valve.
Snow tubes might be nearly impossible to control, but they do absorb many of the bumps and jumps along the way, thanks to that huge cushion of air. And besides, less control means more excitement.
Best classic runner sled
The Flexible Flyer Steel Runner Sled is a timeless classic made with a birch wood deck and red steel runners.
Pros: Steering bar controls direction, beautiful classic style, last for years
Cons: Rather expensive, greater risk of injury than with other sled types
You could easily be forgiven for buying the Flexible Flyer Steel Runner Sled as a piece of faux-vintage decoration. It would look great beside the fireplace, above the mantle, or among the collection of wacky tchotchkes on the wall of a casual dining restaurant. But where this sleigh-style sled truly belongs is flying down a snowy hill at high speed.
Though a wood and steel runner sled may look antiquated, there’s a reason they’ve been produced since the late 1880s: They flat-out work. While not suitable for use on fresh powdery snow, in the right conditions, this sled is as fast as almost any modern option while also allowing you to control your ride. With a flexible steering bar at the front of the sled, you can steer right or left and enjoy the ideal route down, avoiding obstacles and people and hitting jumps and drifts, if that’s your thing.
The sled is recommended for ages five and older and can accommodate most adults. I’d probably recommend you wait until the kids are a bit older than five, personally, as the chance for injury is a bit higher with this sled than with a plastic toboggan or inflated snow tube. Wood and steel just hurt more than plastic.
Best saucer sled
The Lucky Bums Powder Coated Metal Saucer might be impossible to steer, but it’s also basically impossible to ride without a smile on your face.
Pros: Works on most types of snow, built to last for years, suitable for wide age range
Cons: Impossible to steer
If you’ve seen the classic comedy “Christmas Vacation,” starring Chevy Chase, then you know a flying saucer style sled can potentially lead to a tragicomic tableau. Skip the extra grease on the bottom, and you should be able to enjoy this saucer without quite as much risk of personal injury as Chase’s Clark Griswold while still having lots of fun this winter.
The lightweight but virtually indestructible Lucky Bums Powder Coated Metal Saucer is fun for kids and adults alike thanks to the simplicity and durability of its design. Even a smaller child or a larger adult should be able to fit on this sled thanks to its 25-inch diameter. You’ll just have to sit cross-legged, of course. And despite being made of metal, the saucer only weighs six pounds, so even a younger child can carry it back up the hill.
You can’t steer a saucer — that much is important to know going in — but they also tend to work well on all sorts of snow, from slush to ice to powder to those perfect large, downy flakes. While a runner sled bogs down on lighter, fluffier snow and a toboggan can sink into slushier snow under a larger rider’s weight, this smooth disc will slip along over all sorts of wintry precipitation with ease.
Check out more Insider Reviews winter gear guides