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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sledding fun often found close to home

Be there a child who doesn’t thrill at the thought of gliding across the new-fallen snow?

Kids and sleds go together almost as perfectly as kids and puppies. In fact, part of the fun of sledding is having the family dog along to romp up and down the hill.

Sledding hills have much in common with good fishing holes: When you know of a good one, you keep it to yourself. Nothing spoils a good sledding hill like having a big crowd of sledders turning it into a downhill demolition derby.

While the most adventurous winter enthusiasts will dream about taking a toboggan down a snow-covered Freya hill, the best hills don’t require taking one’s life into one’s hands. A decent slope covered in snow will do.

The fun part of sledding lies in how adaptable it all is. Pick any area hill where kids gather and you will see them using everything from an antique Flexible Flyer to the lid off the family garbage can as a downhill device.

During a visit to Downriver Golf Course a young girl was observed tinkering with her friend’s sled at the top of the hill, and while she was preoccupied her own sled took off down the hill without her.

She giggled, adjusted her coat and barreled down the hill on her stomach. And enjoyed the experience so much she did it a second and third time.

Snowboards tend to get saved for ski slopes and the most popular sleds are foam boards and plastic discs. For the purists out there, inner tubes are an always-popular way of getting own the hill.

There are three hugely popular spots that have never been kept secret.

But which is the best?

Downriver Golf Course: Golf courses have never been designed with sledding in mind but that doesn’t change the fact that they naturally lend themselves to the downhill sport.

There are, in fact, several areas frequented by sledders at Downriver, but the most popular is the first tee.

Golfers fly their first shot far down the fairway, but kids and sleds love to take a mulligan on this long, steep slope.

This has been a popular spot, especially when you combine a snowy Christmas and kids finding new sleds under their tree. An informal, online survey got rave reviews.

The main hill is so steep that it lends itself particularly well to snow discs and foam boogie boards, and it’s compact enough that parents can keep a close eye on the fun. Parking is conveniently located a stone’s throw away from the sledding hill.

Inner tube aficionados seem to have staked out their own specialty area on the east side of the clubhouse – a shorter hill that isn’t as crowded as the first tee.

Valley Mission Park: It’s no secret that the park is just as popular when it snows as when the sun makes swimming a summer pleasure.

The slope is long, which makes for a longer ride, and the built-in moguls add some bounce to the downhill slide.

Here you are more likely to find the traditional runner-based sleds – many of them passed down for several generations judging by the assortment on a recent afternoon.

There are two potential drawbacks to Valley Mission Park. The first is the fact that it can get swept pretty hard by the wind and on a cold day it cuts all the way to the bone. The second lies in the way the hill curves, meaning that sledders from different angles reach the same spot at the bottom of the hill. To be safe, keep your head up and an eye on where the competition is coming – and how fast it’s coming.

Manito Park: If there is a more traditional sledding spot in the greater Spokane area it’s a well-kept secret. One of the great joys of the winter is driving up Grand Boulevard and watching all the families enjoying the many sledding hills the park offers. Having a healthy amount of snow over the holidays has made it a hotbed of fun.

The slopes are long and gentle, perfect for the whole family and for whatever type of sled you prefer. And the wide, open spaces are great for winter revelers who prefer other winter pursuits – from building snow forts to sculpting snowmen.

Not sure what fun to pursue? Just watch for a minute. Something will present itself.

On the home front: Christmas morning along Latah Creek found any number of sloped areas being well-used by sledders. And in areas without a hill found parents and grandparents providing the power for the little ones.

Which is the point here: The best sledding hills tend to be the one nearest to where you live.

This writer found that a hilly vacant lot next door kept the grandkids and the family dog laughing and having fun for hours. And it was all enhanced by the fact that, as soon as they got too cold or too tired, they could immediately retire to the fireplace for hot cocoa and cookies.

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