With winter comes sledding. And with sledding comes the trust in gravity to catapult you down a formerly useless hill. The good thing about racing down a steep incline is that it’s fun. The great thing is that you and your kids agree on that.
A lot goes into finding a perfect sledding hill. Some opt for an untouched backwoods course to part the powder. Some go with the mechanically-maintained, high-tech resort chute. Some just go behind their house. But, this isn’t a list about the hill you have — it’s about those bucket list sledding hills you want. So grab that toboggan, strap on a helmet, and don’t forget to take the kids to the bathroom before you go. Snow pants are hell to take off.
Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA
Jamaica Plain is home to 281 acres of semi-serene wilderness (you’re still in Boston, after all) that includes more than 15,000 species of exotic trees and flowering shrubs. When the snow falls, all of the Arboretum’s hills become sled slopes — perfect for an afternoon’s worth of bumps, skids, and attempted jumps. The 2 favorite spots? Peters Hill, which is the highest and longest — and Weld Hill, which features 60-degree inclines that are terrifying to adults and kids alike. Fear = bonding!
Snoqualmie Pass, Seattle, WA
Located about 60 miles from downtown Seattle, Snoqualmie Pass has something for the down-and-dirty sledder, as well as the more refined tubing expert. The “on your own” Hyak Sno-Park features winding, tree-lined slopes, where you can slip and sled until sundown. If you’re looking for something more formal, dig into the Snoqualmie Summit Tubing Center, which features a dozen groomed tube chutes as well as tube rentals and tow ropes. Two-hour sessions can run from $20 to $23. It’s basically the same price buying movie tickets and popcorn. Plus, watching kids fly is more fun than watching animated pigs in Sing!
Granlibakken, Tahoe City, CA
No, Granlibakken isn’t Norwegian for some Oslo grandmother’s cookies. It means “a hill sheltered by trees,” which is exactly what this Northern Cali slope is. Its slopes are perfect for kids or parents who have problems with ear-popping, higher-elevation locales. The place has been in the sled and ski business since 1928, and maintains that old-school charm in its lodges and warming areas. It’s also one of the highest (7,200 feet) and largest (40 acres) sled zones in the California ski town. Slick.
Firecracker Hill, Telluride, CO
Colorado is mostly 90-degree inclines, so for Firecracker to be one of its most prized and revered “unofficial” sledding hills, it’s a big deal. This spot is sandwiched in the rear south side of Telluride’s Town Park and features a number of speedy, tree-lined routes. “Unofficial” means you can bring your own sled, or rent one from the nearby Nordic Center. The free “Galloping Goose” bus loops through town, which means you can leave and take a hot chocolate break. It’s your kid’s consolation prize for wiping out in a snowbank.
Lake Placid Toboggan Chute & Whiteface Mountain Tubing, Lake Placid, New York
The upstate New York town was the country’s true first winter resort and hosted 2 winter Olympic Games (1932 and 1980). It still has some pieces of the original Olympic village, including a toboggan chute that flings riders out 1,000 feet on to the frozen Mirror Lake (Just be sure the kids hold on tight — toboggans have shoddy brakes.) For non-tobogganers, nearby Whiteface Mountain is home to the former ski jump facility and features a 700-foot tubing hill.
Mad River Mountain, Valley Hi, OH
Avalanche Tubing Park — part of Ohio’s Mad River Mountain winter complex — is one state-of-the-art tubing facility. The place is primed to ensure optimal speed (and lots of fear-induced shrieks). Avalanche also features 10 tubing lanes and magic conveyor lifts (basically really long treadmills) that whisk your family to the top. They even offer “Midnight Madness” tubing. It will either be amazing, or a sure-fire way to bodyslam a pine tree.
Sunburst Winter Sports Park, Kewaskum, WI
Want your kids to fly down a mountain at speeds faster than what’s allowed in most school zones? The Sunburst Winter Sports Park is the world’s largest tubing facility, but also the place where you can hit 40 mph on a downhill run. The sprawling complex has more than 45 tubing-specific lanes, including a quarter-mile run with a 100-foot drop. If you have an older kid, you might want to make them go first. If you have 2, you have one to spare.