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Melisa Christensen, a kicksledding enthusiast, has fond memories of growing up in Racine. Her favorite pastime was adventuring at River Bend Nature Center, 3600 N. Green Bay Rd, as a child. Luckily for her, her family lived across the river, from the trails at the local nature preserve.

The graduate of Case High School pursued a college degree in Art at the University of Minnesota. She then traveled to Pratt Institute in New York City, New York. She obtained a graduate degree in Art Education. Christensen had the privilege of teaching for St. Paul’s Public School system for three years. Expanding her family, however, led to a halt in her teaching career. From there, the Minnesota resident fell in love with the outdoor sport, kicksledding, and founded her own business.

Love At First Kick

Christensen is the owner of Brave the Snow, a Kicksled shop and supplier. It’s her love for the outdoors, that began at River Bend Nature Center, that brought Kicksledding back to Racine. While this winter sport has been around for hundreds of years, most individuals that Christensen meets have never heard of Kicksledding.

She explains, “this isn’t a new sport. They were invented in Scandinavia.”

Kicksleds, or kicksparks, are an outdoor activity. The equipment is described: a chair that is mounted to the front of two flexible metal runners/skis that extend backward. The sled is propelled by individuals who kicks the ground with their foot. Participants hold onto a handlebar attached to the back of the chair. When gaining enough momentum, the person then jumps up onto the runners and glides.

Christensen explains that despite living in the Midwest, she never had a winter sport that felt like the one she loved to do. She tried snowshoeing but infrequently used the equipment. However, when she first gave kicksledding a try, she loved it. It was love at first kick. Kicksledding made her a “winter person” as she describes.

Braving the Snow in the Midwest

After Christensen discovered kicksleds at a nature center in Minnesota, she quickly realized there wasn’t a local retailer to supply this fun equipment in the area. In addition, there wasn’t a supplier in Southeastern Wisconsin. From there, Brave the Snow was born.

She says, Brave the Snow is an “inspiring statement.” Due to COVID-19 and the consistent urge from health officials encouraging others to space out and not gather indoors, this movement to get outside has taken off. This motive is perfect for Christensen’s business, especially during snowy and icy winters in the Midwest.

About a year ago, Christensen made a visit back home to Racine. She contacted River Bend Nature Center with her business plans and by Spring of 2020, they placed an order for a handful of Kicksleds.

Jeanne Dernehl, the Executive Director, at River Bend Nature Center says, “what we suspected, and what has proven to be true in the first week of rentals, is that kick sledding is so universal in appeal and utility-  we’ve had toddlers through seniors try them out with great reviews. It’s really worked for parents with small kids, too.”

Rent at River Bend

Kicksleds are now available for rent at River Bend Nature Center. There are a variety of sizes to use. Now that there is snow on the ground, the equipment is ready to rent. Rentals, which are $15, are weather permitting and are on a first-come, first-served basis. Rental times are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at River Bend.

Christensen says, “go out and try it before you buy it.” Her business has been booming and Brave the Snow is nearly sold out of sleds for the season. For Racine County residents, rentals are the best option to test out this new sport. Pre-orders for the next winter will start in May of 2022.

This sport is inclusive for children and adults of all ages. Those with disabilities are even welcome to try the sport. On her website, she states, “they can be used as a snow stroller to give student access to the trails. Kicksledding provides more stability and balance for users compared to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. And kicksleds stabilize kids on icy paths.”

In addition, she says, “as long as you can walk, you can kicksled” and that’s what makes this sport great. If being the person who is kicking doesn’t seem like a fit to you, take a seat and have someone else kick. Christensen recommends that children be 1 1/2 to 2 years old to ride in the seat in front of the kicker.

Christensen has 2 children of her own and they love kicksledding. This is also a great activity to do with your dog.

Credit: Melisa Christensen / Brave the Snow

While River Bend Nature Center does not allow dogs on their trails, if you own your own equipment, taking them along for the ride is something to consider. On the Brave the Snow website there is a variety of gear available for pet owners who want to kicksled with their dog.

Learn More

Before heading out to River Bend, read more about kicksleds by reading Christensen’s blog. You can contact her with questions about the sport by emailing Visit the Brave the Snow Facebook for updates and to stay in the loop with more kicksled adventures.

Happy trailing! If you’d like to try out other winter activities including other things to do at River Bend Nature Center, read 5 Fun Winter Activities to do in Racine County.

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