Sometimes we skiers take winter a bit too seriously.
We geek out on gear, we over analyze each turn and we obsess about snowfall.
And in doing so, we miss the magic – the magic of snow.
The Ordinary Turned Special
From the first autumn flakes to the fury of a late spring storm, snowfall is magical.
Snow blankets the ordinary and transforms the every day. Snow creates a world made for play, whether one delights in building snowmen, making snow angels or sliding downhill.
The Joy of Sledding
When our sons were in the earliest years of grade school, we easily spent as much time sledding as we did skiing.
Their elementary school had a sledding hill, perfect for kids under 10 years of age. On snowy days, they’d spend their recess time sledding with classmates, only to return later in the afternoon with me and our dog.
Our dog liked sledding almost as much as they did.
We liked sledding because it got our kids (and dog) outdoors, it was nearly free (just the cost of the sled) and it was social, with families congregating together for winter fun.
While it may seem laughable that I’m about to share tips for sledding, arguably the most simple of winter activities, we have learned a few things over the years.
1. Find a Good Hill
If you’re sledding with toddlers, the neighborhood or town hill where everyone meets up may be too much.
In general, the smaller the child, the smaller the hill. Look for a short gentle slope with a long run out. Remember you’ll be doing all the work, riding down with your child and then pulling your child and the sled back up, over and over again.
As your kids get older, more confident and stronger, they can handle more speed, ride without you, and best of all, pull their own sled back uphill.
Just be aware that older children and adults weigh more and will slide further than a very light child. Always sled where you have a long, safe run out.
2. Layer Your Clothes
What slides down, must climb back up. While the sliding part can make you cold, the climbing part will make you warm. This makes dressing in layers paramount.
Thermal base layers, wool socks, a fleece, snow pants, mittens, a hat, boots and warm coat are the basics. Be prepared to get snowy and damp. And be ready to add or shed layers as necessary.
3. Choose a Sled
Sleds are available in a multitude of styles and designs all of which serve the same purpose. Aside from choosing something durable, made from wood or sturdy thick plastic, our best tip is to choose one that is big enough for an adult to ride with a child or for two kids to ride together.
While riding solo is fun, riding together is fun, too, and it’s good to have that option.
Tubing is sledding with an inner tube. But tubing is also an attraction unto itself, especially at ski resorts.
Tubing hills and lanes bring families who ski, and families who don’t ski to the resort, providing a fun winter activity that gets everyone outside. It is a fun way to spend time together, making memories.
I will admit that until my sons were teenagers, I didn’t really appreciate tubing.
Then we spent a frigid afternoon tubing at Keystone Resort in Colorado. While it was too cold to ski on that early January day, tubing for an hour (with the option to retreat to a warming hut) was perfectly enjoyable.
Last winter, we spent an evening at the tubing park at Copper Mountain, Colorado.
Arriving after dark, for the final session of the day, we had a choice of four frozen lanes ranging in speed. As at other tubing parks, attendants supervise everything, keeping it safe, but also being on hand to assist, push and spin each rider down the hill.
Being cold, dark and overlapping with dinner time, it was just us and a family with two young children still wearing their ski helmets. Between our two families, we filled the night with squeals and laughter. It would have been hard to tell who was having more fun: the little kids, the big kids, or the adults.
As the evening progressed, our family moved from solo runs, to duos, to trios and a full-family quad.
Each time we’d add a person and tube, our speed would increase and so would the fun. On our last ride, the attendant suggested we line up together as a train. Grabbing the front tube, he spun us furiously and we took off with surprising speed and momentum.
At the end of the track, while laughing hysterically, we plowed into an area of fresh snow, forging a new trail and sliding farther than anyone else had slid on that day.
It was a magic family moment with high-fives all around.
1. If you are skiers and snowboarders, reserve a time that won’t interfere with skiing and riding. Or, plan tubing on an off-day (if you take them), during a longer vacation.
2. After dark the lanes begin freezing and are faster. If you like speed, this is the time. If speed is not your thing, stick to daylight hours.
3. Ask the attendant how you should ride. Usually we’ve found they suggest lying back with your rump held above the snow when riding solo. But when you begin linking tubes together, they often have special instructions on how to hold on and stay connected.
4. Dress extra warm, especially in late afternoon or night. When the sun goes down, the air turns cold. And unlike sledding, you usually won’t be walking up the hill dragging your tube. Instead you’ll likely be standing still on a magic carpet.
Bonus: Bobsledding and Dogsledding
While neighborhood sledding and ski resort tubing are plenty fun, if you’re taste in sliding is a bit more intense we totally suggest signing up for a bobsled run on the Olympic track at Park City, Utah. After just one run, I was pretty sure I was born to be a sliding-sport Olympian. Then I remembered that I was a mom with two sons at home.
Another option for mixing up the winter fun? Dogsledding.
We spent a multi-generational weekend at Colorado’s Snow Mountain Ranch a few years ago. Tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dogsledding filled our time outdoors, while basketball, archery and crafts were available inside.
It’s a great time for grandparents, grandchildren and parents alike!
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