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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ledyanki Smooth the Slides Down Snowy Hills

Along with ice skating and skiing, sliding down icy hills has always been a favorite winter sport for Russians. It is a most accessible sport, requiring little skill or experience. All you really need is a ledyanka, a sheet -- most often made of plastic -- for sitting on that increases your speed and protects your bottom.

"I like sliding with a ledyanka more than sledding," says Maxim Belov, 11, who visits a glistening, smooth hill at the corner of Ulitsa Krupskaya and Leninsky Prospekt every day. "I like it because you don't know what will happen. You are not just moving in one direction but go swinging around. You never know where you end up."

It is not only children who are enthusiastic about the sport. Their caretakers are relieved to only have to carry around a sheet as opposed to a set of skis or skates. "We always take a ledyanka along wherever we go," says one elderly woman watching her 4-year-old granddaughter Polina sliding down a hill in Neskuchny Sad, adding that the girl "does not miss a single hill."

Grandmothers have their own memories of lyedyanki. In villages, children often made lyedyanki from large, worn-out wooden sieves used for sowing seeds. Turning the sieve upside-down, they covered the bottom with cow manure, poured water over the surface and let it freeze. This process made the ledyanka exceptionally durable and fast.

As big sieves and cow manure are hard to come by in the city, children nowadays slide down hills on cardboard, linoleum or plastic bags. An old car hood makes a sturdy, fast slide, but is not recommended as the hard metal is dangerous material in a collision.

The pleasure of sliding down hills is by no means limited to children. Parents often join their children on the short slopes. Adults alone, too, often get the urge. One man recalled being out at a dacha without anything resembling a sheet. But his group tried a swimming fin, which worked fine, if a bit small.

Russian companies have now jumped into the commercial market for ledyanki. Moscow toy factory Ogonyok makes a plastic apple-shaped ledyanka with a stem-like handle. Anatoly Fedyushin, the general director of the factory, however, still hopes to fine-tune his product. "Our ledyanka is a failure," he says. "It is too small. The child is practically sliding on his bottom. I hope next year we will be able to change the design."

If you are planning to buy a ledyanka, the best places are Detsky Mir, at 5 Teatralny Proyezd (tel. 927-2007), and Dom Igrushki, at 26 Ulitsa Bolshaya Yakimanka (tel. 238-0096), which offer an impressive selection.

The cheapest are Russian-made mid-size ledyanki with prices ranging from 8,000 rubles to 11,000 rubles ($1.50 to $2.00). Danish products of similar sizes and shapes cost 20,000 rubles. King-size round ledyanki of various types are available from Danish manufacturers for 57,000 rubles and American makers for 80,000 rubles.

Smaller stores such as Sport, at 30 Leninsky Prospekt (tel. 925-1642), or Zvezdochka, at 6 Butyrskaya Ulitsa (tel. 285-5947), carry the same brands of ledyanki as others but for slightly cheaper prices.

As for the hills, Moscow has several very good ones.

The icy slopes of Kolomenskoye (a five-minute walk from the metro station of the same name) are exceptionally fast and exciting. Good sliding can also be found near the downhill ski slopes of Krylatskoye, in northwestern Moscow. In Neskuchny Sad, the entrance of which is directly across from the Leninsky Prospekt metro station, you can slide down steep hills as well as walk peacefully along picturesque paths.