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DIY winch takes drag out of sledding


March 8, 2011

The homemade sled-and-rider-towing winch (Photo: Josh Smith)

The homemade sled-and-rider-towing winch (Photo: Josh Smith)

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Sledding can be a lot of fun, but pulling your toboggan, inner tube or sled back up the hill ... well, that isn't part of the fun. Yes, it definitely is good exercise, but it's not fun. While the rest of us just quietly resign ourselves to the long climb back up, however, Pennsylvania's Josh Smith did something about it – he built his own powered sled-and-rider-towing winch.

The almost 200-pound (90.7-kg) gizmo sports an 8 hp Techumseh Power Sport engine with a continuously-variable transmission, three shafts, and five speeds that can be selected between via a mountain bike grip shifter. It has a drive ratio of 30:1-4.5:1, which enables it to tow three adults up a 30-degree incline at a smooth slow speed, or "a rather bumpy high speed."

The winch incorporates a 2,100-foot (640-meter) rope that weighs over 70 pounds (31.75 kg), that has been spliced end-to-end to form a 1,050-foot (320-meter) loop. This loop runs through the machine at the top of the hill, then proceeds down to the bottom where sledders can grab onto it after their runs. According to Smith, a hill that usually takes at least 35 minutes to hike up, takes just 5 minutes with his winch.

Although the device turned out well, it's still a work in progress. "The planned improvements include a coat of paint, additional safety kill switches (three currently) and a better way of attaching to the rope," Smith told Gizmag. "The extreme gear ratio was necessary for the heavy loads and steep inclines, but the resulting high end power range has now interesting potential for other sporting applications that we intend to test."

Via Red Ferret

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

One more device to help our fat and lazy American kids get even fatter and lazier. Bravo America! Bravo!


Spot on BJG! I had two FAT families blocking the 8 foot wide isle whilst trying to enter Lowes last weekend, they could not decide where to go, and yes I was not polite, my gawd the husband and wives 45\" BUTTS easy, that move for a minute when they stop walking, pigs

Bill Bennett

I wouldn\'t go that far? If your out skiing or sledding your being quite physical anyways! And speaking as some one who does those activities I wouldn\'t mind having one of those at my disposal at all and I\'m FAR from fat and lazy! :-)


another use could be as a portable well-puller. if you\'ve ever had to replace your submersible well pump, you know how hard it is, especially if you have to pull 150\' or more . . . this is a good invention . . .

Facebook User

We have a rather old portable unit for pulling our boat up on the beach. It has an electric motor driving a winch. One speed, one clutch.


I would think a radio remote control would be a nice enhancement, especially for shifting up or down or stopping completely if needed.

Disregard the fat comments. Being out there active in the snow much better for you than sitting on the couch eating chips. People using this device will still get just as good of a work out. They will just get to go down the hill a lot more times before they get exhausted and want to go in for cocoa. :-)

Great Idea!!

Rustin Haase

Nice home build project but nothing new here. Home-made rope tows have been around for a long time. I operated one forty years ago and it wasn\'t a new idea then either.


There are better ways to pull a well but looks like a great way to pull a sled.


We had a great hill on my grandparents far, we used the PTO from John Deere with an old steel car rim and a rope. that was 35 yrs ago. Our Challenge was not ending up in the frozen river. All in all I like the idea I am thinking beats hiking up hill to snowboard jumps over and over.

Justin Schetrompf

Just get a big dog. Our big black family mutt used to race the sled to the bottom of the hill, the kids would then hitch him to it and I would call him. It was a scary ride back up the hill, but way more fun than some smelly motor winch running on Colonel Ghaddafi\'s oil.

Doug MacLeod

Warning. That rope might be too small for a bunch of heavy people. I have read of a large group of people who were having a rope pulling match and several were severely injured. The power of a synthetic rope snapping back is very dangerous. A metal cable would be better. Great idea for a town, if properly supervised though.

Ron Wagner

Run the rope (or cable) around a idler pulley (large) at the bottom end. At the top, run it around a large motorcycle wheel rim (add flat rubber for friction) and a fixed axle to your motor. Drag ropes should have handles, not clips, so the riders can release in an instant if needed. Could be run continuous if the traffic was heavy, or with a remote for sporadic use. Not bad for a home built, but could be improved upon.

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