Sledding hills are winter’s amusement ride.
Winter officially starts Dec. 21 and finding a location to do one of the season’s most familiar snow-play activities will be slightly more challenging. Mt. Bachelor’s Snowblast Tubing Park is not open. The year-round Tubing hill at the Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic and Recreation Center is currently closed due to COVID-19 occupancy restrictions. And Hoodoo Ski Area’s Autobahn Tubing Park halted its sledding operations until more snow falls.
“We will open as soon as we get more snow, we are hoping for Christmas,” said Doug Richie, the lodge manager Hoodoo Ski area. “We have no control over the weather, so that is what we are waiting for — a little more snow.”
While some of the typical hotspots for sledding are closed, finding somewhere to bomb down a hill on a sled can be part of the fun.
Wanoga Sno-Park, Sled Hill at Marks Creek east of Prineville and Santiam Sno-Park west of Sisters are just some of the sno-parks in Central Oregon with a dedicated hill for sledding. And on a day where the snow is compacted and becomes icy, there is no telling what can happen — or where a sled will go — on the wild ride down.
“It is the ultimate family activity for kids ,” said Nick Horton, who was spending the afternoon at Wanoga with his wife, Katie, 8-year-old, Wells, and 5-year-old, Sylvie. “You can just show up and go, you don’t have to wait in line, the sno-park permit is six bucks a day. With little kids you go up and sled for an hour, for all the work it is inexpensive and flexible. You can sled as much or as little as you want.”
Wanoga is just a 15-mile drive from Bend on the Cascade Lakes Highway toward Mt. Bachelor, which is just part of its appeal.
“The draw to sno-parks makes sense because it allows us the security of knowing what to expect — plowed roads and parking, pavement,” said Kassidy Kerns of the Deschutes National Forest Service. “If you have a vehicle with low clearance, poor tire tread, two-wheel drive, then those are the places for you.”
Sledding is made of three ingredients: some kind of gradual incline, a sled or inner tube, and most importantly, snow.
A day of sledding is just a heavy snowfall away from turning Drake, Hollinshead or any of the local parks into sledding hills.
Or for a more adventurous approach — finding a hill in the forest. That is how Kern spent the past weekend, venturing out to the woods trying to find a remote sledding hill in the Deschutes National Forest near Sisters off of Highway 242 with her nearly 5-year-old child.
“Part of enjoying our 1.6 million-acre Deschutes National Forest means there are almost always new places to explore,” said Kern, stressing the importance of having four-wheel drive, treaded tires and necessary snow supplies, should discovering a remote slope in the forest be the desired route.
“That’s what I’d encourage folks to do,” she added. “Find a place that has some steepness and give it a whirl.”