'Tis the Season to Be Sledding!

There are very few times in life when adults can feel like a kid again.

Sledding is one of those times.

There’s just something about being outside in winter, sledding until your cheeks are flushed, your boots and mittens are coated in snow, and a cup of hot cocoa starts sounding really, really, really good.

Adam sleddingI love that sledding is free, walking up the hill is good exercise, and I think the old-fashioned part of me loves most that there’s not a smart phone, laptop, iPod, or TV in sight. You are totally and completely, gloriously unconnected. It’s just you, Mother Nature, the sound of sleds on snow, the occasional shriek of joy (I honestly have never heard my five-year-old shriek in joy as loud as he did while sledding), and a bonding opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends of all ages. My 2-year-old son and my 62-year-old dad both had permanent smiles on their faces the last time we went sledding.

The main reason, though, that our grandparents and our grandparents’ grandparents liked to go sledding is the same reason we like to go today. It’s fun.

Some of my favorite sledding hills in the metro area are Manitou Ridge Golf Course in White Bear Lake (open a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset), 3200 McKnight Road N. (oh the high school memories on that hill!); and Sunset Hill near Theodore Wirth Park, located just a half-mile north of the Wirth Winter Recreation Area on Theodore Wirth Parkway at 26th Ave. N.

fam sleddingI’ve also heard really good things about Columbia Golf Course (rumored to be one of the steepest hills in northeast Minneapolis) at 3300 Central Ave.; Minikahda Vista Park in St. Louis Park (a long, steep, unobstructed sledding hill) at 3901 Inglewood Ave. S.; Parkview Center School in Roseville, just south of Highway 36 on the County Road B exit at Dale Street (only open after 2 p.m. on school days), Snail Lake Park in Shoreview, 4200 Snail Lake Blvd.; Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove (also offering snowtubing for a fee); and in St. Paul: Highland Park, Como Park, and Battle Creek Regional Park, among many others. See the full list online.

On the flip side, I’ve heard enough horror stories to know that sledding can also cause serious injuries if you don’t take some safety precautions. You are, after all, sledding at your own risk.

Safety tips:

  • Don’t go sledding when the hills are icy. If it’s too slick, wait for a new snowfall. We live in Minnesota, so you probably won’t have to wait long.
  • Play it safe and avoid hills with obstructions (rocks, trees, fences). The vast majority of injuries are caused by collisions.
  • Buy a good sled that can be steered, and keep in mind that most kids under the age of 6 don’t have the wherewithal to steer their own sled
  • Never ride with more riders than the sled is designed to hold.
  • This might seem like common sense, but make sure your keys and wallet are in a safe place while sledding.
  • Always sit on the sled so you can see where you’re going.
  • Dress for the weather.
  • Sled with others in case of an accident.
  • Make sure young kids are accompanied by an adult.
  • Don’t walk up the middle of a sledding hill. Choose one side or the other. And once you’re done, get out of the way so you don’t get hit by another sledder.
  • Many organizations also recommend wearing a helmet under the age of 12 while sledding, similar to what is worn for skiing/snowboarding.

Sledding is supposed to be fun. If you take these safety precautions, it will be. Wheeee!