To make a good sled, Vienna resident Jeff Jordan thought back to growing up in Tennessee. Whenever it snowed, he and his friends would trek 15 minutes up "Mile-High Hill" in order to slide down its steep slope.
"Steering would be a major hazard," said Jeff Jordan, now founder of a new company dedicated to bringing sledding into the modern age.
Jordan, with his wife Cara, recently established Reindeer Sleds, a local business which creates safe, lightweight sleds out of plastic. Their first model, called Dasher and named after one of Santa's reindeer, came out this winter, just in time for the first snowfall of the season.
"Sleds are just so wholesome and good. It's hard to be cynical about sledding," Jordan said.
The couple had been attempting to start their own business for about two years, and came up with the idea to create sleds during last year's winter snowstorms. Jordan, an engineer trained in naval architecture, began to design a sled that could both pass through snow and on top of it, just like the way boats are designed to steer through water.
They came up with three prototypes, with each model perfecting the runners and steering, design, and seating (plastic vs. wooden). Discriminating sledders--neighborhood children--tested the sleds on the hills of Nottoway Park.
"I think the idea to tap into the nostalgic look and feel of a sled while utilizing modern design ideas and technology is brilliant," said Josh Lewis, a friend of the Jordans. "We can't wait for more snow so that we can try it out. It should be the perfect antidote to the hectic holiday period and the inevitable winter blahs."
Once the Jordans settled on the design, they began to mass produce their sleds. Jeff Jordan learned that a company in Pennsylvania could make an injection mold for the sled's seat, meaning that the couple could produce more sleds in quicker time. The runners are made in their workshop in Manassas.
The sleds are 100 percent plastic, with the steering mechanism allowing for shock absorbency. Unlike more old-fashioned sleds, there are no sharp edges on the Dasher.
"Our biggest issue is about being fast and safe. It's like bringing a classic into the modern age," said Cara Jordan, who handles the company public relations.
The finished products are now available on their Web site, as well as area ski shops and hardware stores.
"With the snow that came down, they've been doing really well," said Chris Bunch of the Alpine Ski Shop, which recently moved from Oakton to Sterling.
Bunch said he had agreed to sell the sleds over the summer, after Jordan showed him the Dasher model.
"I just saw a good market for it. I liked it," Bunch explained.
As winter continues, the Jordans hope their sleds will take flight. They also plan to attend a major toy fair in New York in February.
"I get these crazy ideas once a year," described Jeff Jordan of his entrepreneurial spirit. "This one in particular seems to be a home run."