Sloped at the top before easing into a flat base, Orchard Hills Park’s sledding hill was designed for speed. The popular sledding hill at the site of what used to be a golf course draws crowds anytime there’s a decent snow in Geauga County. And sometimes, for diehard sledders like Dottie Drockton, it only takes a dusting.
“I’m usually the last one on the hill when everyone else wants to go back inside,” laughs Drockton, who’s a regular at the sledding hill, which is near her home and has lights for after-dark sledding. “I like the way it was put together — perfect for catching speed right at first before leveling out at the bottom.”
Drockton, a naturalist for Geauga County, also happens to be their go-to source for all things sledding. Her expertise comes from more than half a century of sledding. And even though her three kids are grown and her grandchild isn’t quite old enough to hit the hill, you’re still likely to see her sporting a water-resistant snow ensemble, going up and down the hill on her tried-and-true rectangular plastic sled.
For Drockton, and kids of all ages across northeast Ohio, winter means it’s time to head outside to enjoy the snow – and the best way to do that is zipping down a snow-packed hill. Over. And over. And over. With maybe a quick break for a hot chocolate sometime in between. Ready to grab a sled? Here are five ways to have a safe, action-packed day on one of northeast Ohio’s many sledding hills.
Dress for snowflakes – and exercise
Sure, it’s going to be cold when you first head to the sledding hill, but once you’ve trekked up and down a few times you’re likely to feel plenty warm. What you really need to watch out for is keeping your kids dry. Encourage them to wear gloves, shoes, pants and jackets that are water resistant. These don’t have to be pricey ski gear, just something that repels water, not soaks it up — so instead of jeans, where the snow will just seep in, opt for inexpensive snow pants. Also, have your child wear a ski (or hockey) helmet to protect their head in case of a spill.
Follow the rules of the hill
Just like there are etiquette rules involved with cycling and hiking trails, there also are rules for sledding. On the way to the sledding hill, remind your children about these safety musts. Drockton points out one of the most important: “You walk your sled up the side of the hill, not the middle where people are going down. Also, you need to wait your turn; if someone else is going down the hill on their sled, wait until they’re at the bottom before you start.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 5 and younger sled with an adult, not alone. Children should be actively supervised on the sledding hill until age 12. They also recommend parents to have kids go down the hill facing forward, with arms and legs in the sled, to minimize the risk of accidents.
Know your sledding style
“I like a standard, plastic rectangular sled,” notes Drockton. Her reason? “They’re easy to steer.” When shopping for a sled, look for one that has steering handles — there are several options under $15. Plus, the handles double as an easy way to hang up the sleds for storage.
Other popular options include tubes or round saucers. Keep in mind, when you go down the hill in one of these sleds, you’ll have a tough time pointing the tube in any one direction.
Energize your pack
To keep your crew ready for another run, bring a snack pack with you. Easy options include granola bars, trail mix and fruit. You can bring apple wedges with lemon slices in the bag — the lemon keeps the apples from browning and the slices are a refreshing treat. You also might bring a thermos full of hot chocolate and/or bottled water. Some sledding hills, like Punderson State Park, have food available for purchase. Other hills have fire pits available as well, so your family can take a break and get warm by the fire before heading back to the hill.
Let the hill do the work for you
Your kids will get more exercise if they’re in charge of bringing their sleds up and down the hill — but Northeast Ohio has a few hills where they won’t have to carry their sled at all. Punderson State Park has a tow rope available (when there’s enough snow) so kids can ride their tubes up the hill on the tow line and then race back down. The tubes — and the tow rope trips — are free.
You also can take a high-speed glide down the specially designed tubing lanes at Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort’s Polar Blast Tubing — which includes conveyors to take riders and tubes back to the top of the hill. Plus, snowmaking guns ensure the slopes remain in great condition all season long. Packages start at $25 for three hours of tubing. bmbw.com
Another option is The Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation, where you’ll be propelled down the 700-foot icy chutes via a toboggan. It boasts the tallest, fastest chute in the state. The refrigerated chutes run even when there’s no snow. The price for one ride is $6, and an all-day ticket is $12 for adults and $10 for children ages 11 and younger. clevelandmetroparks.com
Readers Share their Favorite Hills
We love taking our four boys sledding at Old River Farm Picnic Area off of Chagrin River Road in North Chagrin Reservation, in Willoughby Hills. We love that you park and, boom — you’re at the hill. You don’t have to trek a mile to get there. Squire’s Castle is a bonus stop since it’s just down the street; we always stop there first if it’s still daylight. This is one of the great childhood memories my husband holds onto! We never forget cookies and hot cocoa!
— Melanie Sechler, of Eastlake
Huntington Reservation in Bay Village… it’s a beautiful park and we can always warm up indoors at The Lake Erie Nature and Science Center while looking at animals.
— Kenzi Roberts, of Avon Lake
Todd Field in Willoughby; it has a large hill with stairs to go up and down. There also are some tiny hills for the little kids. Plus plenty of restaurants close by to recharge. Been going there since I was a teenager and now I take my toddler there and she loves it.
— Richard Ford, of Painesville
North Park in Brunswick! They have a great hill perfect for sledding. It’s close to our house, so the kids can play until they are frozen and then we can quickly go home to warm up.
— Daniell Powell, of Brunswick
Goodyear Metro Park; I have gone there since I was a child. It is a blast to go with my family, close to home, and reminds me of my own childhood.
— Jennifer Boley, of Green
Kendall Hills, off of Quick Road in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There’s plenty of space for safe sledding and a fire nearby to warm up around.
— Julie Matola, of Cuyahoga Falls
Click here for more great, family-friendly sledding hills in Northeast Ohio