I guess I have sledding on my mind. Maybe it´s because I have not gone sledding once this winter or maybe it´s because we are in the midst of another dumping of snow on our already snowy grounds here in MN. We enjoyed a few days of melting and puddles, to which I gladly responded by wearing my big orange rainboots. That didn´t last long. I woke up this morning to fresh white powder-I bet the hills will be packed with sledders today!
The kind of sled I want to write about today, sparken (literally ´the kick´), is not a sled that one would want to use on a hill, however. Instead, it lends itself to smoothly traveling on flat, icy surfaces. The picture above is of a traditional Norwegian spark; as you can see, it´s basically a chair on skis/skates with a handlebar. The handlebar allows for easy control and the seat for either a passenger or space for supplies. The spark is a quite an amazing, yet simple, multifunctional and non-motorized mode of transport.
The exact historical time and location of the sparkens first appearance is unknown, but according to the Nordøsterdal Museum in Norway, a picture dating back to between 1675 and 1725 was found in the Netherlands of a man on a spark pushing something. See picture below:
It makes a lot of sense that the spark would first appear in a place like the Netherlands where it is mostly flat and there are a lot of canals that freeze over in the winter. To the dismay of many Norwegians (as sparken is widely thought to be one of the most ´Norwegian´things there are), historical accounts tell us that Sweden first used the spark.
Regardless, sparken is still widely used today, particularly in small country towns and villages where the roads are not sanded or salted. The spark is known to be, and deserves its name, ´the world´s most environmentally friendly vehicle.´
One last fact: sprinters on sparks have been recorded traveling 40 km per hour!