Anyone who has skied in Scandinavia will have seen parents towing their children on fiberglass sleds called pulks. The pulk glides through the snow on corridors and the child is comfortable inside, protected behind a tinted windshield, wrapped in a special insulated bag and held upright by a harness. The adult is restrained by long rigid aluminum posts attached to a belt.
For very young children, a pulk is the snow equivalent of a stroller. It is safer than carrying the child in a backpack and much more comfortable. With older children it can be used as a “backup” transport, so that the child can ski for a while and then rest for a while.
Skiing with pulk can be rewarding for both the child and the parents, but there are problems:
– It can be a bumpy ride for the child, especially if the track is poorly prepared or icy. To counteract this, you need to make sure that the child sits upright and is comfortably supported: if the harness is loose, it will slowly slide over their back. For this reason, pulks are not suitable for children under the age of six months. If you are a powerful skier, be aware that your skiing action can cause the sled to rise rather than move smoothly, causing the child’s head to swing violently back and forth.
– The child may be very cold. So be sure to use an insulated bag. The pulk should also have a windshield, in part to protect against snow lifted by the towing skier. Because towing a pulk is a hot job, parents may easily not realize that the child is cold.
– The basic “setup”, with the child behind the parents and out of reach, is strange for the child, especially since the noise of the skis and the sled makes communication difficult. It helps if you are accompanied by another adult who can ski next to the pulk and keep the child company.
– Towing a pulk requires a reasonable degree of skill and a lot of strength. Even on flat terrain the pulk feels heavy and when you go uphill it feels very heavy. And that’s because it’s heavy! The sled itself can weigh around 20 pounds and then you have the weight of the child, plus food and fluids, as well as other essentials like diapers and toys. When skiing downhill, the pulk pushes you forward, so you need a very safe snowplow brake. You also need a strong and reliable turning technique, because in corners the pulk tends to swing behind you, making a wider turn than you intended. The risk of tipping is not significant, but it does exist, and some pulks have roll bars to counteract the danger.
When you’re new to using pulks, it’s best to take short trips – half an hour is plenty. Then, for very young children, it can go up to an hour.
You can hire pulks in many Scandinavian resorts. Expect to pay around £ 50 (US $ 75) for a six-day rental, plus £ 20 (US $ 30) for the insulation bag.