With northern Maryland's rural, open layout, Carroll County is the perfect spot for grabbing a sled, toboggan or lunch tray for sledding down one of the county's many rolling hills.
Schools and parks seem to be the most popular spots for sledding enthusiasts, with families heading there on days off. Popular spots throughout the county include Sandymount Elementary in Finksburg, Carroll Community College in Westminster, Carrolltowne Elementary in Eldersburg and the Lions Club field in Hampstead.
One of the most famous spots in the county to go sledding is the golf course hill facing Md. 31 on the McDaniel College campus in Westminster. Students and community members have been coming to the hill for more than a century. The hill, located on the manicured lawns, combines a steep incline with a relatively open expanse, making it ideal for large numbers of winter weather enthusiasts.
Cheryl Knauer, media relations director with McDaniel, said the college neither condones nor bans sledding on their hills.
With minimal steering, no braking systems, seat belts or other protective devices, sledding can occasionally be a dangerous activity for riders young and old.
One of the worst sledding accidents occurred on the McDaniel campus in 1925, when it was known as Western Maryland College, according to the Historical Society of Carroll County. Seven Western Maryland faculty and students sled from the campus down Main Street together on two attatched sleds, and struck a car. One rider was killed instantly, while the other six were injured.
Kevin Dayhoff, a spokesperson for the Westminster volunteer fire department, said the organization only gets one to two calls in regard to sledding accidents a year.
"We get our fair share of calls, but it's not often at all," Dayhoff said. "People need to be safe. The most important thing is using common sense and being aware of traffic and hazards around the hills."
Families have to be more careful now as roads open to motorists more quickly after a major snowstorm than in past years, Dayhoff said. Maryland policy is to clear roads within four hours of a storm. In the past, when roads remained covered for hours or days, Main Streets throughout the county were used as thoroughfares for sledding children. In the '50s, the Manchester Town Council officially closed Maple Street between Locust and Grafton in order to allow sledding in the road there.
The invention of recreational sledding is most often given to the Swiss, with the first recorded sledding competition taking place in the Alps in the 1880s. Over the years sledding technology has transformed from heavy wooden toboggans, to Rosebud-style flexible flyers, through plastic saucers to modern inflatables. Young engineers have put together sleds of their own making using everything from garbage bags to trash can lids and cardboard boxes.
In the 1980s, the Carroll County Times reported on a new trend in winter sports — snowboarding. The concept was so novel, reporters had to describe how the snowboard was ridden.
"The hottest trend in sledding is the snowboard, on which people stand ... They have straps to hold one's feet in place and resemble a short, fat version of a surfboard. The snowboarders sped down the hill like surfers riding the crest of a wave, their arms outstretched to aid their balance."
Today, schools throughout the county have ski and snowboard clubs for students who enjoy hitting the slopes.