One of my family’s favorite winter activities — and one of the best ways to wear out your kid — is sledding. Whether it be in the backyard or at a groomed sledding hill, it is great way to spend time with the family and enjoy the snow. What better way to bond with the family is there than sliding down a hill letting out screams of joy?
Create a backyard sled hill
We like making our own sled hill in our yard, but there has to be just the right amount of snow. Usually 6 inches is enough to cover the ground and any small obstacles to provide an open path. Our yard has the right pitch: short, with a slight pitch that runs into a longer, steeper pitch that runs out into an embankment. We stay away from the road.
What better way to bond with the family is there than sliding down a hill on your butts letting out screams of joy?
When making a sled path in fresh snow, we have to make several laps — at least four to five — while pushing the snow down with the sled to make a slick, flat path. This can be a difficult task, especially if there is a lot of fresh snow, and usually requires some strange scooting and squatting positions along with lots of pushing and pulling to compact the snow. It gets easier with every lap and eventually we have a fast, fun sledding track. We prefer long, rectangular sleds for speed but the plastic saucers offer better control.
Explore the region
If there isn’t enough snow at our house or we are looking for a more exhilarating ride, we head up to Tahoe Meadows located on Mount Rose Highway (State Route 431). Tahoe Meadows offers a winter wonderland for everyone to enjoy. Although it’s a popular spot for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, it is also the perfect spot for sledding. There are several different slopes with different pitches to choose from. There are gentle slopes for a mellow cruise down the mountain or long, steep slopes for those looking for a fast and exciting ride — like my son Anikin. We usually bring Anikin’s small snowmobile to make fast laps on the sled hill.
Tahoe Meadows is a popular spot and parking can be difficult, especially on weekends and during holiday periods. The most popular sledding spots at Tahoe Meadows are next to the highway and are well used and packed down, which makes for easy sledding. But, the hardest places to find parking are right there, as well. If you are feeling adventurous, you can find your own spot, away from the crowds, to make your own sled hill. You might have to work a little harder but if you have the patience to drive around until you find a less crowded spot, it will be worth it in the end.
Free sledding can also be found at any U.S. Forest Service Sno-Park in the region. Visit ohv.parks.ca.gov for a full list of Sno-Parks in the area (a parking permit is required). There are also a few unofficial sled hills that pop up during the winter around the region.
Keep your eyes out for places near you where others are sledding. Make sure it is not on private property and be careful not to park in an unauthorized area such as someone’s driveway, the shoulder next to the highway, on or off ramps, etc.
Groomed sled runs
You can always pay to sled or tube on groomed hills at local ski resorts, the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park or Adventure Mountain on Echo Summit. These areas offer tubing or sledding on well-maintained, groomed trails.
For a unique and groovy sledding experience, check out Disco Tubing every Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. at SnoVentures Activity Zone at Squaw Valley. The sledding trails are decorated with laser and LED lights, with live music provided by a DJ.