Sledding: Not as harmless as it looks |

Sledding: Not as harmless as it looks

Sara Thompson
Nevada Appeal News Service
Jim Grant/Nevada Appeal News Service Morgan Dershimer, 5, rides her sled at Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe earlier last week.

When the first layer of snow falls, people take to the hills with sleds in hand, eager to zip down for the first sled run of the season.

“I love going so fast down the hill,” said 5-year-old Morgan Dershimer.

But even the simple sport of sledding can be dangerous if people aren’t careful.

Several incidents were called in to the fire departments involving sledding injuries this week.

On Wednesday, Lake Valley Fire Department responded to two sledding accidents, said Gareth Harris, Lake Valley Fire Department Chief Battalion.

One of the incidents involved a head injury where a woman hit a post, and the other involved a child with a knee injury, he said.

Every winter, more than 15,000 children between the ages of 5 to 14 are treated in emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“It’s not the speed, it’s the stopping that hurts,” said Fire Marshal Ray Zachau of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.

Drake Dershimer, an El Dorado Hills resident, said he took his kids sledding at Echo Summit Sno-Park before Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe began operating it last year. He said the environment is much more controlled than before.

“It was a human bowling alley,” he said. “People were crashing into each other.”

Two years ago, he said, he saw a girl ride a sled down the hill and crash head-first into a tree. She was taken away by ambulance.

Now the hill is groomed with a sno-cat and berms are made to keep sledders in their individual sledding lanes, said Jim Mueller, co-owner of Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe.

Zachau said most of the incidents involve out-of-towners who aren’t as familiar with the snow as locals are. They usually just pick any hill without checking out the terrain. Currently, the base could use another three to four feet of snow to cover rocks, he said.

Another safety factor with sledding is the inability to steer. Zachau said saucer sleds can be the worst.

“You’re just going to go wherever gravity takes you,” he said.

At Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe, co-owner Linda Mueller said they don’t sell saucer sleds or inner tubes because the business doesn’t want to promote their use. People may bring those sleds into the park if they already have them, she said.

Some key tips to stay safe is to know where the obstacles are on the hill, try to stay in control of the sled and to wear a helmet, Zachau said.