Sledding on natural tracks
If you think about it, there is no winter sport that is easier to do. Every family in Slovenia probably owns a sled and everyone, no matter how young or old, knows the basics of sledding.
Things become more exciting though when you stop sledding on low hills and take the next step. I am talking about sledding on roads that are closed in the winter. They can provide whole kilometres of sled tracks for an unforgettable experience.
This type of sledding takes a good deal of care and the right equipment. The most important thing is to find a sled. When winter starts, you can buy a sled in virtually any supermarket. Sold for as little as a few dozen euros, these cheap sleds are a result of globalisation and mass production. To make sure that your sled does not fall apart within the first few minutes, it is perhaps a better idea to buy one that is properly made, preferably by a professional carpenter.
Since you can build up quite a speed, be sure to protect yourself from the cold winter air with appropriate clothing, windproof if possible. Mountaineering boots make good sledding footwear. Pay attention to your trousers: tuck them into your socks to stop them filling up with snow. Since forest roads can be quite bendy, it is important to protect your head. Cycling or ski helmets are the most obvious choice. There is a lot of snow and ice flying about, so it is also a good idea to wear ski or trekking goggles. Now you have everything. The only thing left is to find a sled track. Let's see which parts of Slovenia offer the facilities for this winter sport.
In the Primorska region, there are several agencies in Čezsoča near Bovec that organise sledding trips. They offer two options: sledding down the old Italian road off Mangartsko sedlo and sledding down Javoršček. The former starts at the second tunnel and leads all the way to the Predel road, forming a sled track some 7 km in length. The track is open nightly for sledding from December to March. The track starts at an altitude of 1800 m. Each participant is given all the necessary equipment, including a headlamp and a sled, and driven to the starting point in the organiser's SUV. The Javoršček sled track is some 4 km long and ends near Čezsoča. Since this track is shorter, visitors usually go down it twice.
Sledding is also organised in Kranjska Gora, where visitors can sled from Vršič, Tromeja and Gozd Martuljek. The Vršič sled track is probably the best known. The starting point is on the 17th bend. For night time sledding, torches are lit and positioned on each bend in the road. There is a stopover at the Koča na Gozdu lodge for refreshment, after which the track continues to the 3rd bend.
The Tromeja sled track leads along the forest road to Kranjska Gora and is 4 km long; the track from Baba leads along the forest road to Dovje and is 3 km long.
The most impressive track starts at an altitude of 1369 m on the old Ljubelj mountain pass.
The sledding centre in Podljubelj, Karavanke, is arguably the most organised and dedicated. The sledding club has 160 members and clears out several sled tracks every winter. The most impressive track starts at an altitude of 1369 m on the old Ljubelj mountain pass. The pass can be accessed from the border crossing. After about an hour's walk in the sunshine, you reach a mountain lodge and two obelisks that mark the border as determined in the St. Germain agreement. On a nice day in the winter, the track sees several hundred visitors. However, the sled track is unprotected and can be quite dangerous in icy conditions. For this reason, they are working on a new 1 km long track in Podljubelj this year. Other sled tracks in this region have their starting points at Dom pod Storžičem and Jelendol near Tržič.
With its many ravines and forest roads, the Cerkljansko and Idrijsko mountains are perfect for sledding. Each year, the sledding club in Idrija organises sledding on a number of tracks such as Na talerju, Z Rovta, Z Rebra, U Grap, Na Hlevišeh, Pri Zagodu and more. There is probably no need to explain that all these are remote forest roads that are hardly ever used in the winter. Meanwhile, the Škofja Loka side offers the adrenaline-filled experience of sledding on the Mišouh track.
The most beautiful sled track is probably the one that starts at the Rinka waterfall and leads along the entire valley.
But there is no need to drive to the middle of nowhere to enjoy sledding. As long as there is a proper winter with plenty of snow, you can even go sledding on the outskirts of Ljubljana. Šmarna gora has an altitude of almost 700 m above sea level, while the bottom of the basin has an altitude of 300 m. With close to 400 m of difference in altitude, the descent is an unforgettable experience. There is a gravel road leading from the village of Zavrh to Šmarna gora’s summit. The road ends near the church. From here, you can sled all the way down to the village. Look out forLook outt the many hikers when you descend to the pass between Šmarna gora and Grmada. From there, continue along the road due north until you reach Zavrh.
The best place for organised sledding in the east of Slovenia is the Logarska dolina valley. There are a number of roads where you can sled for several kilometres. The most beautiful sled track is probably the one that starts at the Rinka waterfall and leads along the entire valley. There is another appealing track: Pavličevo sedlo, a border crossing at an altitude of 1339 m, is closed in winter and is the perfect starting point for a sled track that ends in the valley.
Sledding has something of a reputation for being nothing more than a game – a sport for children. In fact, this is far from the truth. Sledding enthusiasts belong to the Slovenian Luge Federation, which comprises nine sledding associations with hundreds of members. They are involved in a variety of activities. They take part in national and international competitions, including European and world championships. Naturally, this is a bit different to the amateur sledding discussed in this article.
For competitions held on natural sled tracks, the track has to be specially maintained. Water is poured over the road to create an icy slide, which is then protected with wooden fences and bales of hay. Competition rules state that the average incline of the track should be between 10 and 12 degrees. The track length is 1000 to 2000 m, there is a set number of bends and a flat section at the finish line. The competitors who race on these tracks use sophisticated equipment and reach high speeds. For people who have enjoyed sledding at an amateur level as just a fun winter activity, there is nothing to do but admire the skill, courage and speed of these athletes.
Sledding is the thing, then. It is a great reason to stretch our legs in winter and spend some time in nature. Sledding is the best possible experience that you can have in your spare time.