Sledding down steep hills is arguably a Canadian tradition, but many cities aren't feeling the fun.
Faced with potential or real lawsuits due to injuries on public park hills, several cities in Canada and the U.S. have either banned tobogganing in city parks or are considering restrictions on certain slopes deemed too dangerous for the public.
The City Of Hamilton has banned sledding in municipal parks since 2001, deterring rule-breakers with a fine of up to $5,000. In Toronto, a city bylaw forbids tobogganing in any area "where it is posted to prohibit it." This category includes a steep hill at Etobicoke's Centennial Park, which is one of the most popular spots in the city, according to the Toronto Star.
U.S. cities including Des Moines, Iowa, Lincoln, Neb. and Montville, N.J. have all outlawed tobogganing on certain city hills or posted signs warning the public to slide down at their own risk, according to the Associated Press.
Dubuque, Iowa, is following Hamilton's lead. The city is moving forward with a ban on sledding in all but two of its 50 parks, AP reports.
“We have all kinds of parks that have hills on them,” said Marie Ware, Dubuque’s leisure services manager. “We can’t manage the risk at all of those places.”
While a Change.org petition sprung up just over a month ago in response to Hamilton's ban, the city may have reason to be cautious. In 2013, an arbitrator ruled the city had to pay out more than $900,000 after a man was injured on a city slope, saying that it failed to properly warn him of the dangers, according to the Hamilton Spectator.
Bruno Uggenti suffered a fractured vertebra after he hit a snow-covered drainage ditch while sledding down a steep city hill.
The City of Hamilton had posted "no tobogganing" signs in the area and argued that Uggenti assumed any injury risk himself, the Spectator reported. But the arbitrator found that there were no signs close to the accident site and a fence erected to keep the public off the hill had been damaged and the city hadn't replaced it.
The Columbus, Ohio-based Center for Injury Research and Policy found that between 1997 and 2007, almost 230,000 children and teens were treated in emergency departments for sledding-related injuries.
“Twenty thousand injuries a year for an activity you can only do a couple days a year is big,” Lara McKenzie, the center's principal investigator, told NBC News.
One doctor agrees that sledding can be dangerous, but thinks banning it completely is going too far.
Dr. Charles Tator, a brain surgeon who is also a board member at injury-prevention charity Parachute Canada, told the National Post he doesn't support blanket bans on the activity.
“I don’t like that idea, because we’ll just produce a bunch of fatties and couch potatoes, people who don’t exercise, and that’s not going to get us anywhere,” he said.