Slide down the snowy hill in Viking Ship with swords and shields, or a 10 foot wide turtle. You could even try a motorcyle or snowmobile design. These are the cool cardboad box sleds Allison St. Aubin, resident of Claremont, NH, has seen over the years taking part in Arrowhead’s Cardboard Sled Race in Claremont. Looking for more ideas? Just type in cardboard sled ideas and you’ll find the sky’s the limit: shoe box, taco, donut, underwear, popsicle, a duck, or a crown.
I asked her advice on what’s she’s learned. What are the secrets and tips her and her family have discovered?
There are many cardboard sled races in the area so you can choose the one that fits your interest. Each has it’s own set or rules so keep that in mind with the tips provided. For example, some explicitly say no wax on the bottom of your sled. Some hills are longer than others too so if you’re going with little ones, you may want to keep that in mind when choosing which race fits your needs.
What tips do you have for making a good cardboard sled?
It’s important to have rounded or smooth or curled up edges in the front and in the back in case your sled turns around. Avoid sharp edges to prevent it from catching in the snow. Don’t go too bulky if you’re designing for speed.
Where do you find all that great cardboard?
I either collect it if we purchased a large appliances or other things over the year. Otherwise you can go to stores like Walmart or Market Basket and places like that and ask them for their cardboard. You may want to ask ahead at stores so they don’t flatten it and leave it in original form if you want it that way. Cardboard tubes can be really cool too as runners on the bottom of the sled. (Side Note: some race rules say you can’t have runners).
How should you keep it together?
Lots and lots and lots of duct tape. Most cardboard sled races only allow cardboard and duct tape for the actual construction. You can then use other things for decoration but usually nothing except cardboard and wax on the bottom of the slide. (Side Note: I saw one in a video that installed lights and another that installed a horn for his car. Make sure that’s okay in the rules).
How much time does it take?
It really depends what type of box structure you’re starting with or if you’re building a box starting from scratch. It’s pretty time-consuming though to make sure it’s reinforced well plus then you have to decorate it.
If you’re looking for some instructions from pros try this article. For a more basic set of instructions see this quick article. You can see duct taping the sled in action here.
What should people keep in mind for the race?
Keep in mind the sled may not go straight it may turn around so it’s important to consider that in your design. Also think about aerodynamics and being as least wind resistant as possible. Wax is super important on the bottom of the sled. Also keep your sled off the snow until right before race time so that cardboard does not absorb any water and make it mushy and slow. (Side note: not all races allow wax. Some encourage it.)
Is it mainly for kids and families are there adult only sleds?
Most competitors are kids and families however there are some adults only sleds. It’s most important just to have fun because there’s no way to guarantee a great sled run. A lot of times sleds with adults go faster because of the weight advantage.
Do kids and parents ride together?
Sometimes parents and kids ride together, especially for the younger kids I would say under six years old.
How many people per sled?
Sleds could have one person or as many as you want. I’ve probably seen as many as 10 in a giant sled. That sled didn’t go so fast but it looked really cool. (Side note: Some race rules only allow 1-2 people).
What are some things you’ve learned over the years?
I’ve learned that success has a lot to do with the snow conditions. Just when you think you have figured out a good and speedy design, the next year the snow will be entirely different and your sled will not go well. With warmer weather it’s much slower and with colder weather it’s faster which can mean your sled may spin or not go straight down the hill. It’s important to have a sled that you can jump out and push and jump back in in case you get stuck on a slow patch. You also want a good pusher at the top of the hill to give you a fast and straight start. There are usually winners for both speed and creativity but usually in my experience it’s rare for someone to win for both because most creative sleds are bulkier and less aerodynamic. I have also seen some really good round slides over the years. It’s hard to build a good smooth round one but if it’s done well it usually goes fast.
Wow! Thanks Allison. What an informative and helpful collection of ideas from your expertise over the years. I think I’ve decided to try this with my sons when they’re old enough. I think we’ll do a dinosaur…
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