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How do foam snow sleds compare to plastic sleds?

<p>Adobe Stock</p>
Adobe Stock

When the first signs of snowfall appear, many people get excited about hitting the slopes with skis or a snowboard. But it can take years of practice to be confident enough to shred some powder.

The next best (and arguably safer) thing is to enjoy your time speeding down a hill on a sled. Many Americans have fond memories of their first sled, and there are several designs to choose from. The most common starting point is a foam sled before upgrading to a plastic version. But how do the two kinds compare?

The basics of snow transportation

A foam sled

Just like a wooden or plastic sled, a foam sled comes in different shapes and sizes. The most common construction material is a polyethylene seating area, and there might be a thin plastic layer at the bottom to help reduce traction.

They often have handles on the sides, making it easier to change direction and to give the rider something to hold onto without losing their balance. But the biggest advantage that a foam sled has over a plastic one is comfort.

Foam is thicker and much softer than plastic. When you’re hurtling down a hill at seemingly breakneck speeds, your backside will feel every small bump on the way down — and foam cushions most of the blows.

Of course, the design also plays a role, and while racing stripes or a spaceship graphic won’t make you go faster, it does look a lot cooler when you’re screaming with glee.

A plastic sled

The foam gives you a more comfortable ride, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss plastic sleds altogether. Plastic is far more durable than foam and can also carry more weight. That makes it ideal for larger kids or adults.

An additional benefit of plastic is that the hull is often molded into different shapes to give you an extra speed boost or provide added protection. This is especially important when the steering isn’t exactly precise — and there will be obstacles in your way.

Best foam sleds

Flybar Kids 36-Inch Foam Toboggan Snow Sled

This foam sled is the perfect tool for getting down a hill fast. The 36-inch sled features a spaceship design that’ll appeal to kids of all ages. It has a sturdy core to withstand rough terrain and a crack-resistant bottom. For safety and some directional steering, there are handles on either side.

Flybar Kids 26-Inch Foam Saucer Disc Snow Sled

With a playful candy swirl design, this large 26-inch sled will provide hours of entertainment. It has a crack-resistant bottom for all kinds of terrain, and the sturdy polyethylene foam core ensures that it doesn’t lose its shape. There are handles on either side that are compatible with thick mittens.

Best plastic sleds

Slippery Racer Downhill Sprinter Toboggan Snow Sled

This is an excellent choice for stability and maximum fun. Made from durable slick-coated plastic, it has a rope on the front to hold onto and for steering. It also has a raised edge on the front, making it easy to go over bumps and uneven terrain.

Gizmo Riders Stratos Snow Bobsled for Kids

With this plastic sled, you will surely be the fastest rider going down the hill. It has a comfortable two-person seating area similar to a snowmobile and is built for speed and handling. The steering wheel is connected to a locking differential steering system that lets the Stratos maintain high speeds without toppling over. It has an automatic retractable tow rope, and you don’t need any tools to put it together.

Sportsstuff Classic Plastic Snow Sled

This is a great choice if you want to move downhill fast without any complicated gadgets. The rectangle-shaped sled has a tapered leading edge, letting you gain some speed while avoiding uneven terrain or obstacles. It has hand grips on the sides and a long tow rope.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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