Seattle man has high hopes for new sled

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) -- David Levy loves the sensation of zipping down a snow-covered slope, the cold wind in his face, his body twisting and turning along the way.

The Seattle man is neither a skier nor a snowboarder. When he rides down snowy hills, he's going headfirst and lying on his stomach.

Levy enjoys sledding, an outdoor activity normally associated with children. He's passionate enough about it to have invented a new sled he hopes will appeal to adults.

''My Flexible Flyer finally gave up, so I said, 'OK, I need a better sled,''' Levy recently told The Muskegon Chronicle. ''Unfortunately, there wasn't one. Flexible Flyers were not made for adult height, slamming down a mountain at 30 miles per hour.''

So, he contacted a sled engineer and together they designed Captain Avalanche, Levy's new 5-foot-long sled.

He's traveling around Michigan this month with the sled -- plus a 4-foot-long version called Captain Avalanche Jr. -- to gather ideas for improvements.

The sleds are made of polyethylene and have contoured ''body cradles'' that are padded for comfort. Their aluminum runners can be bent for riding tricks.

''It's the natural way to do it,'' Levy said. ''If you can lay down, you can go down -- it's that simple.''

He plans to sell the sleds starting next winter. At first, they will be available exclusively in Michigan, the state with the most avid sledders, Levy said.

Captain Avalanche won't come cheaply. The retail price will be $300 -- about 10 times the cost of an average sled.

But Levy said he believes his creation will foster a new crop of serious sledders of all ages and will someday be a common sight at ski resorts.

He has visited some of the state's ski resorts to discuss the possibility of adding sled runs. He also sent Captain Avalanche sleds to enthusiasts around the world to get their opinions.

Joan Palicia of Wayne, N.J., who wrote a book on collectible sleds, said she was skeptical when she first heard about Captain Avalanche.

After checking it out, she's became a believer. She said the design combines features of a sled and a luge, and is ''really the only thing that's been done to sleds in the last hundred years.''

''When David called me and said, 'I'm sending this sled through the mail,' I thought, this guy must be a nut case,'' Palicia said. ''But when I got it, it was magnificent.''

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