One of our favorite modes of winter transportation/entertainment on the snowpacked roads of Tuscaroroa, or the lake is through the use of our Sparks.
Spark” is short for “Sparkstötting” (Swedish/Norwegian). In Finnish it is called “Potkukelkka”, meaning kick-sled.
The exact early history of the spark is lost in the mists of time, but the first confirmed sighting was in Sweden around 1870. Perhaps a Viking runestone will be found with a drawing of an early spark! My guess is that some inventive Swedish farmer nailed a chair to a pair of skis, and used it for hauling firewood. etc. “Spark” means “kick” and “Stöt” means “push”. The word “stötting” or “stutting” was also used for small sleds used for hauling wood.
Sparks were used for transportation and then for sport as it spread to larger cities. In 1888 Stockholms Sparkstöttingklubb was founded. The club leader was Viktor Balck, who later became one of the founders of the Olympic Games.
By the 1890’s sparks had spread to Norway and Finland. In 1900 the modern steel runnered spark was developed, and the design remained unchanged until now.
There were major competitions in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Spark racing was one of the 3 major events (besides skiing and skating) in the Nordic Games (Nordiska Spelen), which was the ancestor of the Winter Olympics. However, after 1910 or so, sparks were mainly used as a utility vehicle. Today they are still used in smaller towns.
(information taken from http://www.dermott.ca/ski/spark.html)
Interested in building your own kicksled? Check out Northouse Folk School: http://www.northhousefolkschool.com/classes/OutdoorSkill.htm