No Snow to Sled On? Try Ice Blocking

The perfect hill for ice blocking will have smooth terrain and plenty of grass. Justin Baeder/flickr

With record high temperatures in many parts of the nation, it’s not shaping up to be a white Christmas for most of us, but the lack of snow doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one of winter’s favorite pastimes.

If you’ve got a box, a trash bag, some water and a freezer, you’re just hours away from a fun-filled day of snowless sledding.

For decades, innovative teens and college students in warm climates have participated in an activity known as ice blocking, which involves “sledding” down grassy hills atop blocks of ice. But it wasn’t until recent years that the ice blocking got its own website.

Johnny Roller created to share his knowledge of the activity, complete with safety tips and a how-to guide.

Interested in hitting some snowless slopes this winter? Here’s everything you need to know about ice blocking.

Creating your ‘sled’

Measure the amount of room in your freezer, and then find a box to serve as your mold. You’ll need one that’s big enough for you to sit on and small enough to fit in the available space.

“I lucked out and found a box that was 4" x 17" x 17" (it was a box for an LCD monitor),” writes Roller.

Remember that once the box is filled with water, it’s going to be heavy, so don’t select a box that’s going to be too large or heavy to pick up when it's frozen.

Next, line your box with a trash bag, and tape the bag to the outside of the box so it’ll stay in place and prevent the water from coming in contact with the cardboard.

Fill the lined box with water. You’ll need only 3 or 4 inches of water to create a block of ice that’s thick enough to sled on. Place the water-filled mold in the freezer.

At this point, you can add rope, which you'll use as a handle. (While not necessary to sled, it’ll certainly come in handy when you’re speeding downhill.)

Roller recommends taking an 18-inch rope and placing each end in the water toward the front of the mold. It’s important to submerge at least 4 inches of rope to properly secure it.

Want to make your ice-blocking experience a little more colorful? Add a few drops of food coloring to the water and mix it up.

Now comes the hardest part of your ice-blocking preparations: waiting for the water to freeze. “Depending on your freezer, this could take up to 48 hours to freeze all of the way through,” writes Roller.

boy sledding on block of ice
Be sure to place a towel between you and your ice to keep yourself dry. Kobault Films/YouTube

Tips for getting the most out of your ice blocking experience:

  • Look for a grassy hill with smooth terrain and plenty of room to coast to a stop. Keep in mind that any small rock or divot could cause your ice block to come to a halt, which may leave you airborne. (And the ground doesn’t make for nearly as soft a landing as freshly fallen snow.)
  • To transport your ice block with minimal leakage, place the ice in a trash bag or large cooler.
  • Place a towel atop your ice block to keep yourself dry.
  • Sit on the back edge of your ice block, or perch atop the ice on your knees. Once you’re comfortable riding downhill, you can try lying on your stomach or chest to pick up a little speed.
  • Ice blocks tend to rotate as your ride them downhill, so you’ll have to control your spin, which takes practice. You can let one hand drag in the grass to help control your speed and counter the spinning.
  • Watch out for other sledders. You can’t really steer your ice block, so make sure you have a clear path before launching yourself downhill.

Watch some ice blocking in action in the video below.