Toboggan or snow saucer, sledding is a fun diversion on a wintry Minnesota day -- and an unlikely fitness activity to boot. Here are 10 great Twin Cities sledding hills.
Snow squeaks underfoot on an unlit hill at St. Paul's Como Park, where the kids of Chelsea Street have come to burn off energy after school. Emily LaCroix-Dalluhn, age 10 and flush from play, is a dozen runs into a sledding session with three neighborhood friends. "This is why they need an escalator," Emily jokes, trudging uphill and collapsing in the snow.
It's 6 p.m., a dark evening in mid-December, and kids around the Twin Cities -- and their parents -- are skimming downhill on plastic sleds and inflated tubes. In Minnesota, sledding is a veritable right for kids cooped up during long winter days. But the activity has fitness benefits, too. Imagine the calories burned by running snowy hill-repeats with a sled in tow.
This guide highlights 10 top sledding spots around the Twin Cities, a winter's worth of steep hills and icy bowls to scream down -- and then trudge back up to do it all over again.
Unlit and unmanaged, Tower Hill is representative of the dozens of neighborhood parks in the Twin Cities perfect for a toboggan ride through prairie grass and trees. Climb the park's namesake hill and pick from almost 360 degrees of descent options. 4520 Woodhill Road.
Steep drops, icy bowls and 200-foot-long hills grace the golf course at Como Park, which flash-freezes into a sledding paradise with the first snowfall each winter. Access the main area at the corner of N. Chelsea St. and W. Arlington Av. on the west side of the park. www.stpaul.gov, 651-488-9673.
Bomb down one of the steepest hills in northeast Minneapolis at Columbia Golf Course, a hike-it-back-up hill with a warming clubhouse nearby. Tube rental is $5. 3300 Central Av. NE.; www.minneapolisparks.org, 612-789-2627. Concessions available in clubhouse 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
A lighted sliding hill next to the chalet is open from sunset to 10 p.m. Duck inside the visitor center to warm up by a fire and sip hot cocoa. Off East Bush Lake Road, www.threerivers parkdistrict.org, 763-694-7687.
A "moving sidewalk" lift and 20 distinct groomed lanes for tubing make Elm Creek a primo sledding spot in the Twin Cities. Tubers have been clocked careening at more than 30 miles per hour, according to the park's website. Off County Road 81 NW.; www.threeriversparkdistrict.org, 763-694-7894. Two-hour session is $12. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends, 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.
Hills bordering the golf course provide precipitous sledding with long run-outs at this St. Paul park. Access the best sledding behind the water tower near the intersection of Ford Pkwy. and S. Snelling Av.; www.stpaul.gov.
A lighted sliding hill near the visitor center is open evenings until 10 p.m. Sleds only -- no snowboards or tubes allowed. Follow signs off Rockford Road just east of Interstate 494. www.threeriversparkdistrict.org, 763-694-7750.
An unmanaged hill above the west shore of Lake Harriet, Beard's Plaisance attracts neighborhood sledders to schuss under giant oak trees for 400 feet toward a parking lot far below. 4525 Upton Av. S.; www. minneapolisparks.org.
Two slopes, including the "Big Hill" for thrill seekers, are equipped with tow ropes to haul tubers back up for successive wild rides. 8989 55th St. N.; www.greenacresrec.com, 651-770-6060. Adults pay $14 for a two-hour session; kids 12 and under, $10. 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Glimpse a city skyline through trees before plunging downhill on Theo Wirth's 10th fairway, a glazed tubing slope in winter with a tow rope. Or the hike-it-yourself Sunset Hill is near 26th and Wirth Pkwy. The park chalet is at 1339 Theodore Wirth Pkwy.; www.minneapolisparks.org, 763-522-4584. Tubing for adults is $12; $8 for ages 17 and under. 4 to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.