All the Best Tips for an Epic Day of Sledding

Winter snow is magical for many reasons, but sledding often tops the family list. Sledding is an easy winter outing for kids and parents of all ages and can be a fun way to spend time enjoying the outdoors this season. You can have a spontaneous adventure at the local park or plan a day trip to the mountains for something more involved. Whatever your preference, spending a few minutes preparing for the best possible sledding experience every time is essential.

Where and When to Go

With lots of little ones in tow, you may not want to spend an entire day on a sledding adventure. On the other hand, a group full of older kids and adults might want extra adventure on the steep slopes. When choosing the best sledding spots, it’s vital to assess your group honestly. Some parts of town will have snow year-round, while others are bare until a fresh snowfall. If you can, head to the slopes the day after it’s snowed for the best experience. Everything is packed down, and it tends to be less crowded.

Short, local adventures

For young kids, sledding close to town is the best bet. Find a local park or head to the foothills for gentle hills that offer maximum fun with minimal risk. Long, gentle slopes that end in a safe spot (i.e. not beside a ravine) allow young ones to sled independently. Many parks have the added benefit of multiple sledding areas in one venue so that you can send the older kids to the steeper hills.

Longer wilderness trips

For a group with older kids and plenty of time, heading to the mountains or hills will give you the best sledding experience. Check road conditions before you head out, and have plenty of gas and air in the tires. Most ranger districts, state parks, and national parks have designated sledding hills, so do your research for the best spots. These hills tend to get crowded after fresh snow. So, start your day early if you’d like some space. Avoid stopping along the side of mountain roads to go sledding. While some of these spots seem tempting, the snow can hide dangerous rocks or dips.

What to Pack

Food and drinks

Sledding is a workout! Pack plenty of food and drinks for your group in case you get stuck in bad weather.

  • Water for everyone, plus extra in the car
  • Protein-rich snacks
  • Thermos of hot chocolate (and cups!)

Snow gear

It may be obvious, but you’ll need to double-check that you’ve packed all the snow gear before heading to the hills! Even if you’re a non-sledding adult, you might be helping to walk kids back up a hill or rescuing someone after a wipeout, so snow gear is a good idea for everyone.

  • Sleds: Consider whether you’ll be riding with a child, and get a big enough sled to accommodate two people. Inflatable tubes are a sound option, but make sure you have a way to blow them up!
  • Snow boots, pants, jackets, and gloves: If you don’t have this gear, you’ll quickly get wet and cold. Opt for a short trip to the local park instead of a more extended outing.

Safety equipment

Sledding is an excellent family activity, but it’s not without risks. Some of the most common injuries come from sledders colliding with each other! Plan to have safety gear on hand for your whole crew:

  • Helmets for little ones sledding alone
  • Standard first aid kit for cuts or blisters from snow boots
  • Sunscreen
  • Plastic bags to hold snow as an ice pack
  • Goggles/sunglasses for each person (the snow sprays back in your face, especially on steep hills)

Warmth, warmth, warmth

Plan for everyone to change clothes at least once during a sledding trip (twice for younger kids). Additional provisions for warming up on the drive home are also essential for that peaceful drive back. Here’s what you should plan to keep in the car for post-sledding comfort:

  • Change of clothes for each person, including shoes
  • Additional dry socks
  • Wet bag/garbage bag to hold snowy clothes
  • Two warm blankets
  • Hand warmers (can be used for feet, too!)
  • Several towels (great for drying hair and any drips from snow gear)

How to Prep Ahead of Time

Heading out for a day of sledding doesn’t just start when you get in the car. Make sure to take the time to prep your kids, so they know expectations, rules, and responsibilities. As soon as you pull up to the hill, everyone will be racing towards the top, so you’ll be glad you’ve covered the basics at home.

Set reasonable expectations

Kids may have grand ideas about your day of sledding, so set reasonable expectations. Discuss how long you can spend on the slopes, how crowded it might be, and whether or not they’ll have to take turns using the sleds. Also, talk about what happens when one group member wants to leave, but others aren’t done yet (hint: bring some travel games to play in the car while you wait!).

Agree on rules

Sledding can be dangerous, so agree on the rules before you head out. Make sure kids know whether they’re allowed to sled alone, how far they can go before checking in with an adult, and whether they can do things like race with friends.

With some preparation, your day of sledding will be a treasured family memory!

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This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history, and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.

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