For Sebastian Dwornik, tobogganing is not just a quick thrill or a winter workout – it's part of the ethos of living in Canada.
"Tobogganing hills are local treasures. They're invaluable to the essential experience of tobogganing as a child," he says. Even as an adult, he's a sledding enthusiast. But when he moved to Burlington, Ont., a few years ago, he didn't know where to find a local hill.
This spurred Dwornik, who is a software and app developer, to start Tobogganhills.com, a crowd-sourced website that plots and rates hills across the country. We asked him for some tobogganing tips.
Describe the perfect ride.
Qualities of an ideal toboggan ride include having a sense of curiosity and terror. You want some exhilaration, a bit of adrenalin and a sense of unknown of what will happen next, just like a rollercoaster ride.
So what should people look for when they're choosing a hill?
One that is wide with different levels of steepness to accommodate families as well as more extreme sledders. Also, having a long run off at the bottom really helps – that way if you have a fast sled, you still have lots of room for coasting. And try to choose one without obstructions, like cars, rocks, trees or crowds of people.
What are some of your tricks for getting serious speed?
"If you can get a running start, that's a huge bonus cause you'll get up to speed a lot quicker. Plus if you run and jump with the sled, you can get a little air off the top. The sled in itself is important. The more uncontrollable the sled, the more of a thrill it is. And if you have a saucer or a tube, you give yourself a spin by using the snow or an object to leverage some spin."
What's the best snow for sledding?
Packing snow is very good. Powder snow is beneficial as it's soft, but too much powder can actually slow you down. What you don't want is slushy snow; it doesn't have a great slide factor and can expose the ground beneath, which will cause friction with the sled and slow you down.
Of course, too much speed can pose a safety risk. How can tobogganers be safe on the slopes?
Safety is the responsibility of the tobogganist and most of it is just common sense. Wear warm clothing – it will also act as padding. Young kids should wear a helmet. And be cautious and mindful of the environment around you. People will underestimate the travel and direction of the sled. Toboggans are a lot of fun but they're also very random.
Let's rank some sleds. One represents "Might as well be cardboard" and five is "best ride."
Inner tube: Five. It's a soft but scary ride.
GT racer: Four. Lots of speed, good for more challenging courses.
Crazy carpet: Three. Fun, fast sliding but you usually slide off of it before the bottom.
Classic wooden toboggan: Four. Simple, but a very good ride.
Plastic saucer: Five. Not as comfortable as a tube but it's the most exhilarating.
This interview has been condensed and edited.