Weather forecasters are predicting epic snow this winter — possibly of the kind and amount we saw two years ago. That’s good news for skiers, snowboarders and others who flock to the mountain resorts each winter. But what if the snow is really bad? Like, Ice Storm bad?
Consider the sled — be it disc, tube, or toboggan. It’s a cheaper alternative than skiing when visiting the mountain resorts (where you can even hitch a ride to the top!) and on informal neighborhood hills, it’s the perfect remedy for the snowed-in blues.
This modest ski area north of Spokane features an ample tubing hill with a rope tow and its own supply of inflatable yellow tubes (your toboggan/greased saucer is not permitted). Sessions last 90 minutes and cost $10 for kids over 3-foot-6 (smaller kids pay no charge but have to ride with a paid adult).
Rates at Silver are twice as high as at Mount Spokane, but you get an extra 30 minutes, plus a moving carpet pulls you back up to the top of the four-lane sled hill. Oh, and let’s not forget the three-mile gondola trip from the parking lot up to the ski/sled area. That alone is almost worth the $20.
The Activity Barn
The drive to McCall, Idaho, may not be worthwhile if you’re just planning on tubing, but if you’re in the area, check out the Activity Barn, which features four groomed tubing lanes on a 700-foot-long hill that drops 85 vertical feet. When you reach the bottom, just hook your tube to the cable tow and you’re back on top in less than three minutes.
Considered the jewel of Spokane’s park system, this is also considered one of the best places to sled during winter. But don’t be fooled. While its central location makes it awfully convenient for those on the densely residential South Hill, the sledding slope (just off of Grand Boulevard) is short and not too steep. Those with a taste for adrenaline will quickly grow bored.
Now this is sledding. Oft-overlooked by Spokanites on the South Hill or even the near north side, this 104-acre conservation area clinging to the east side of Five Mile prairie near Whitworth is a sledder’s paradise. Broad and steep up top, it offers plenty of route options — forested and craggy, smooth and sloping — for the 300-yard-long, 300-foot drop to the wide, flat stopping area. The lower portion of the park also offers milder options for kids.
This is a far more rogue option than Holmberg Park, but this slope on the opposite edge of Five Mile prairie looks (unscientifically) like it could be a hell of a sledding hill. Park near the top of the Strong Road hill that careens upward from North Indian Trail Road and walk your sled along the edge of the hill. Due south of the road about 700 feet you should have a long, clear, steep shot westward, with a vertical drop of around 125 feet.
When a Facebook fan recommended this park in the southeast corner of Spokane, we were skeptical. Isn’t that the big flat field where the Spokane Spartans cricket club plays? But our jaw dropped when we saw the steep and wooded hill that plummets from the Ben Burr Trail on the South Hill down to the baseball field at Underhill. Deemed the best sledding hill in the city by the Spokesman-Review during Winter 2008’s epic snow dump, this is one place you have to check out this winter.
This is probably irresponsible to even suggest, and we’ve never tried this area ourselves, but we figure there’s some pretty wicked sledding down the side of High Drive near the bluff trails. Now, we wouldn’t recommend the single-track portion of the bluff — launching yourself down toward Vinegar Flats from anywhere between I-90 and 43rd is probably suicide. But there is an interesting series of trails down from High Drive near 57th Avenue, including a wide, steep road. Below that, the terrain widens out to hilly, forested terrain that looks like the second moon of Endor. Surely, there’s some nice sledding space in here. Just remember that it’s a long walk back up to High Drive.
Other, Minor Hills
We’ve heard good things about the northeast face of Cliff Park around Stevens Street and Cotta Avenue, Cherry Hill Park in Coeur d’Alene, Downriver and Indian Canyon golf courses (though the city gets pissy about this) and Liberty Park, about a mile west of Underhill Park (see above).