Every Revolution Begins with a Spark

The kicksled, or potkukelkka in Finnish, is part scooter, part sled. It has two long runners for self-propulsion on snow. With a wooden seat at the front, it can accommodate a backpack or two. It is widespread in Scandinavian countries, especially in Finland.

“You don’t need any special equipment to kicksled, just a good pair of boots and warm clothes,” explains Anne Middler, local kicksled guru. In her eyes, kicksledding is an environmentally friendly means of transportation, a healthy recreational activity and a great way to stay in shape.

It was love at first sight when she first kicksledded in November 2009.

“I was with a friend on Crag Lake and she was skiing – but I am not a skier. I tried her kicksled instead and there I was, completely hooked.”

Middler bought her first kicksled the following day.

Throughout the subsequent months, a passion for kicksledding continued to build. She would bring up the subject at work, with friends and family – essentially with whoever wanted to listen. She would cruise the Millennium Trail with her baby girl snoozing in her car seat strapped to the kicksled.

As an environmental activist, it brought into line many of her core values. The kicksled revolution was born, at least in her mind.

Kicksledding can appeal to people who don’t like cross-country skiing.

“I tried skiing, but I just don’t like all those straps and sticks around my body,” Middler says. “With the kicksled, you just hop in your boots and you are gone.”

She first got a handmade wooden sled from Andy Lera, a kicksled builder and designer on the Carcross Road. When Lera’s business was up for sale in 2010, Middler thought about taking it on.

“I was quite keen on buying his business, but realized I could not make as much sleds as he could – around 35 a year, and I had a baby at that time. It needed to be profitable,” Middler says.

Instead, she discovered a Finnish manufacturer called Esla that produces a metal-framed kicksled. She bought more than one from them.

She believes kicksleds can be a substitute for snowmobiles in small communities.

“In Finland, communities are designed around the use of these sleds, not every sidewalks get cleared, allowing people to commute on their kicksleds in winter,” she says.

It is also a way to stay active on those long winter days.

“Seniors in Finland use them as snow walkers to get around town; they are pretty stable.”

She foresees trails being designated for their use around communities.

It can be a competitive sport, too.

“The Finns are quite passionate about their kicksled. Competitions are organized, racing suits get worn. These can also be social events, festive activities. Once the kicksled community get bigger, we could do the same in the Yukon,” Middler says.

She turned her passion into a business in November, opening Kicksled Revolution, first as an online store and more recently, as a physical shop. Business was in full swing with Christmas orders.

In addition to the many sizes and colours of kicksleds available, she is also offering a faster and lighter version, called a kickspark.

For now, her business venture is a one-woman show, but she envisions turning it into a social enterprise.

“Sleds could be locally made, employing disadvantaged workers, it would not be just me importing sleds from Finland,” Middler says.

Middler’s store, Kicksled Revolution, is located at 502 Wood St. in Whitehorse, which is on the corner of 5th Ave. and Wood St. For more information go to www.KicksledRevolution.com.

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