New Yorkers who didn’t already have a sled stashed in their closet that morning might have been out of luck: Toy retailers, both in the city and across the country, have largely pushed sleds and toboggans off their shelves and out of their catalog pages.
Once the quintessential under-the-tree gift, wooden sleds have largely disappeared from the holiday shopping mix, victims of warmer weather, which makes scooters more appealing, and the changing taste of children, who might prefer a Sony PlayStation or Nintendo Wii.
The remaining manufacturers market them mainly as nostalgia items or serious sporting equipment intended for ski slopes. And increasingly, the sleds that do show up in toy and sporting goods stores are the disposable plastic kind, impulsively bought and easily forgotten on the local hill at the end of the day.
Yes, the interest that kids have in high-tech toys — and high-tech pastimes in general — has supplanted their interest in the Flexible Flyer, to, as I see it, the detriment of both. (And yes, they’re also blaming milder winters... another consequence of climate change.)
I lived in New York City, in Brooklyn, when I was small, before we moved to south Florida (um, no sledding there, even without global warming), and I have very fond memories of sledding down a hill in Prospect Park, and of using the pedestrian overpass as a sled-hill at times. That was some 45 years ago, but only 15 years ago the cafeteria at our office sent a memo warning us of higher food prices if we didn’t stop taking the trays and using them as sleds on the hill in front of the building. We’re just a bunch of over-age kids sometimes, really we are.
And it saddens me to think that so many kids would rather play a game called “Xtreme Mega-Luge” on their PlayStations... than go out on a sunny winter’s day after a snow, and sled down a hill with their friends, laughing and shrieking and enjoying the outdoors.
So there’s the cost of that bit of technology: kids can now play video games all year ’round that let them pretend they’re racing in the snow... but when they really can race in the snow, it’s not a special thing any more. It’s too low-tech.