Sled Hill Sense and Liability

Sledding is a fun and inexpensive winter activity that can cost your agency plenty if you don't take measures to ensure the safety of your patrons


If an agency knows that a non-designated hill is being used by sledders, the lack of action in stopping the sledding is a form of implied consent.

You're sitting on a piece of molded plastic whizzing down a snow-covered hill at breakneck speed with no way to steer. Sound like fun? For thousands of Illinois youths and even some adults, sledding is a favorite winter pastime.

Sledding is inexpensive, fun, and does not involve much skill, all of which add to its popularity. Many hills are designated and maintained as sled hills while others are simply used for sledding when the snow falls. Formulating a sled hill loss prevention program helps patrons safely enjoy one of their favorite winter activities. Consider the following losses that reinforce the need for a prevention plan.

. An 8-year-old boy lacerated his forehead when he struck an unpadded cyctone fence. In attempt to channel sledders away from existing trees, the fence was erected near the edge of the slope perpendicular to the direction of sledding

A 31-year-old man suffered a fractured ankle when he chose to sled down the back side of the hill and struck a park district building. This accident occurred despite the fact the district has placed signs directing users where to sled

A teenage park district employee filed a workers' compensation claim against the district when he collided with another sledder. The employee was on duty when the injury occurred but his job was a sled hill attendant, not a sledder

A group of teenagers turned over a picnic table and rode it down the sled hill Unfortunately, a mother and young child were injured when they were struck by the runaway table.

A comprehensive approach to minimizing losses and reducing liability can be implemented by addressing the following areas: hill design, supervision, preseason setup, inspection and signage.

Hill Design

It is important to note that there are no known standards or guidelines that apply specifically to the design of public sled hills. The sled hill design recommendations made herein are based on the Park District Risk Management Agency's (PDRMA) member experiences, observations and accident investigations.

Starting at the top, a flat staging area will allow sledders to get situated and ready before starting down the slope. Borrowing from playground guidelines for slides, a 30-degree average slope is recommended for the face of the hill. The face (sledding area) should have a method of channeling sledders toward the bottom and away from obstacles (trees, benches, light poles). The run-out, which is the flat area at the bottom of the face, should extend far enough to allow sleds to come to a safe, unobstructed stop. One option to reduce the risk of a run-out area that is not long enough is to slightly incline the run-out allowing gravity to help slow the sled.

It is very important to provide a walkway or stairway, separated from the face, to allow sledders to return to the top without being struck by descending sledders. Concerning the direction of travel, a northern orientation of the face will minimize direct

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