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Sledding spots in Chicago, and interesting homemade sled designs

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Over the last week, Chicago has been blanketed by a cascade of snow that has formed up thickly in drifts all over the city, to the bane of residents driving cars with low-slung frame, and to the joy of children (and older people) who love to play in the snow. Some will be tossing snowballs at each other, others will be making snow angels, or snowmen, or other snow constructions...and some will be sledding.

In that light, here's are a interesting recipes for 'Do It Yourself' homemade sleds to try out this winter season, as well as some tips on local hills that offer tense, downhill sledding action:

'IKEA Stool' Sled:

This little number, a luge type sled 'hack' made from the parts of two Frosta stools, available at most IKEA outlets, is particularly ingenious. The stool tops, sawed and shaved, make the platform, and the stool legs form the general frame and the 'runners' which cut a path through the snow. The whole thing is joined and fastened together by 3D-printed brackets. The luge's overall size depends on how far forward you place the runner parts. In general, though, this sled will be a small contraption, suited more for kids than adults.

'Soap container' Sled:

This sled design, which is more of a toboggan type, is made with 2 by 4s, screws, and plastic sheeting cut out from large plastic soap containers. The 2 by 4s form the sled's main frame, and the plastic sheets are screwed into them at the bottom to create a floor and smooth sliding surface. This particular sled, unlike the design in the first link, is good for adults and even pairs of adults.

'Shipping skid' Sled:

This particular sled recipe can be put together with any type of wood, but ideally with wood from old-style freight shipping pallets.

Unlike the earlier, simpler designs, this one will require a fair bit of precision and precise measurement: additionally, the runners and steer handle need to be made from electrical metallic tubing. This project requires familiarity with wood-working, as well as access to local hardware stores, or alternatively, recycled wood warehouses like the Rebuilding Exchange.

Wheelbarrow Sled:

The subtle pleasure of 'Do it Yourself' activities is that you can reuse old or worn-out items in new ways. This set of DIY instructions shows people how to combine their old wheelbarrow bucket with their old set of skis for fun and profit, creating a Luge-type sled with the volume of a toboggan type sled. Be sure to coat the wooden supports with a water sealant to get the most mileage out of this contraption!

Notable Chicago sledding spots:

If you've got a large hillside, a steep slope, and nothing sharp or jagged at the bottom, then you have a good sledding spot. And there are some very good sledding spots around Chicago, from Gompers Park in Mayfair to Wood Oaks Green in Northbrook to Blair Park Sled Hill in Lake Bluff.

The best sled hill by far, if you're close enough to Evanston, is James Park (aka 'Mount Trashmore'), at the intersection of Dodge and Oakton. This buried landfill has the girth of a minor mountain, a rich grove of trees at the top, and three different slopes. The left one is relatively gentle and suitable for kids, and the right is downright marvelous for kids, providing a swift and thrilling descent.

Do not try heading down the center slope: there's jagged rocks all the way down. You will get killed.

Have a happy new year and wipeout-filled winter!

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