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Head for the hill

Fargo's man-made Dike East may get credit for saving the town from floods, but it's often overlooked as one of the few sources for outdoor winter recreation.

Fargo's man-made Dike East may get credit for saving the town from floods, but it's often overlooked as one of the few sources for outdoor winter recreation.

One of the lone points of topography in this town, the dike is like a sliding Mecca after a few inches of snow.

While sledding on the dike is free, courtesy of nature and the Army Corps of Engineers, buying a sled could cost up to $100. Here's a look at what local stores have to offer for this year's sledding season.

Riva 'Ice Runner'

Vitals -- 40"

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$29.99 at Menards

An updated version of the classic sled, the Ice Runner looks more like a Klingon war ship as it rides inches above the snow. A durable, molded-plastic body gives it too much weight to be good on anything but packed snow, and no steering makes it more like a luge. A sticker warns "always wear suitable protective helmet and appropriate eye protection," but the picture shows a child rider with no helmet or gloves and only sunglasses, apparently the next Jim Shea -- the Olympic champion skeleton racer.

Lightning Sled

Vitals -- 48"

$4.48 at Menards

This is the modern version of the toboggan. Its long, sleek design and smooth surface make it a good sled for light snow, though more than one rider will severely weigh it down in deeper drifts. This model has no steering, which makes it difficult to tip. A sticker on the sled warns riders not to use without a helmet, while lying down or standing. All of which leads us to believe this sled is suitable only for the Surgeon General. Or maybe John Ashcroft.

Riva 'Space Saucer'

Vitals -- 26"

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$3.99 at Target

Little has changed with this updated version of the classic metal disc. Gone are the strap handles on the side, replaced with formed plastic grips. Gone is the fear of inadvertently getting your tongue stuck to the metal surface as you spin wildly down the hill. The saucer still has no steering and the smooth, round surface is likely to send you spiraling towards a wipeout. This vertigo-inducing ride isn't for everyone, just the fearless and senseless jokers in "Jackass."

Bigfoot 'Snow Monster'

Vitals -- 18" x 48"

$1.99 at Scheels

Perhaps the best all-around sled is the most despised. With a slick and curved plastic surface, this magic carpet works on just about any kind of snow. However, its rolled-up form makes it hard to stay on all the way down the hill. You're more likely to wind up on the bottom, with the sled rolled up next to you, as you are to actually remain sitting on it.

Torpedo 'Fast Track'

Vitals -- 55"

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$59.99 at Scheels

The classic model, this runner sled is also the most feared. It is both a marvel of design and fundamentally flawed in its engineering. The metal frame makes it too heavy for fluffy snow and the rails are always ready to run over someone's hand or foot. Its design and nostalgic value are undeniable, perhaps indicating it best belongs on the wall of some kitschy restaurant.

Canadian Torpedo

Vitals -- 6'

$69.99 at Scheels

With its Shaker-like, molded-wood form and simple designs, the classic toboggan is the most aesthetically pleasing ride. For actual sledding, however, this model is left in the snow dust. Its length and weight make it hard to slide on anything but packed snow, and the rope on the sides is a poor substitute for actual handles. Still, that length makes it ideal for pulling kids or chopped wood behind a snowmobile. The only people who could really get good mileage out of this would be the McCaughey septuplets.

Sledz 'Snow Racer'

Vitals -- 20" x 39"

$14.99 at Target

The same design as the knee board, this is the newest wave in sledding. The manufacturer's claim of being "funner, faster, softer" may make grammarians cringe, but it's the board your inner x-treme sportsman can embrace. This ultra light-weight foam board may not last forever, but it offers some cushion and its side handles give a degree of maneuverability. The slick, laminated bottom makes it a real runner and ideal for a freestyling stuntman like a snowbound Tony Hawk.

The inner-tube

Size, price and availability varies depending on how nice you are to your mechanic.

The inner tube is the favorite mode of transportation down Fargo's Dike East, where riders can sign them out at the warming house. Available in various sizes, the tube offers maximum comfort and a good dose of speed, though steering is sacrificed. Not as wild as the saucer, the tube is an oft-overlooked and durable ride. Perfect for NASCAR fans looking to melt some snow with a little burning rubber.

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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