With most indoor activities cancelled or limited by the pandemic, Ottawa families are looking for ways to spend time together that don’t involve a screen or couch.

One favorite winter pastime is tobogganing and families around the capital are out in force on local hills.

The weather is not always cooperating though. A lack of snow and the freezing conditions have created icy conditions on many hills, making it easier to lose control and suffer injuries. The Ottawa Paramedic Service reporting on Friday they had responded to six calls in the previous 10 days involving mild to serious injuries, including the death of 11 year old Josée Abi Assal, who crashed into a pole at the bottom of the hill at Mooney’s Bay.

Ottawa Paramedic Superintendent Richard White told CTV News Ottawa that the injuries involved people of all ages, from four years old to young adults.

“There are a lot of bare spots on the hills that cause concerns,” White said. “As you are going down, gaining speed, they can cause you to stop pretty abruptly which can cause fairly significant injuries.”

Pamela Fuselli, president and CEO of the safety advocacy group Parachute, says getting outside is important for everyone and one of the best ways to avoid injury on the hills is to take the time to explore your surroundings before you take that first trip down.

“Are there any hazards on the hills like rocks or trees or benches, even at the end of the run are there roadways, rivers or rail roads?” Fuselli said. “A key to safe sledding is to wear a helmet; one of the risks is around head and spinal cord injuries.”

Andrew McMaster and his family were out sledding hill at Carlington Park this weekend. The former ski hill is now considered by many to be one of the best spots to test your skills. The McMasters go there because it is close to their home and it is a wide-open space; because of that, they believe it is a safer place to go tobogganing.

“We take all the precautions, the kids are wearing helmets and make sure they are safe and if they are not comfortable we are not going to force them to go down obviously,” McMaster said. “I don’t see any higher risk here than taking my kid skiing for instance you take the same precautions safety measures as well.”

The City of Ottawa has 58 designated sledding hills.