Winter in snow country means downhill skiing, cross-country skiing or snowboarding, but for some families, those activities don’t always fit into a budget. For outdoor enthusiasts, sledding is a great compromise between action, adventure and affordability. The simple act of flying helplessly out of control down a hill while screaming, whether on a tube or a sled named Rosebud, is still a great way to spend a few hours in the snow, and it’s an especially great thing to do with your kids. You can either practice the old school technique of bringing your own gear, climbing up a hill and sliding down, or for a little added spice head to one of the resorts that provide lift serviced, specially groomed slopes designed to heighten the tubing and sledding experience.
Not interested in joining the crowds at the tubing resorts? Here are some local North Tahoe-Truckee locations where you can bring your sled or tube, climb a hill and have some fun. And you will like the price: free.
Tahoe Meadows is the closest location to Reno where you can depend on finding snow. It’s also a popular spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the south side of the Mount Rose Highway, and snowmobiling on the north side. You will find a steep sledding hill just as you reach the Mt. Rose Trailhead at the summit. Milder sledding options can be found a mile further at the Tahoe Rim Trail Tahoe Meadows Trailhead on the south side of the highway, or a bit further on the north side.
A gentle slope can be found on Fairway Boulevard next to the Chateau Clubhouse in Incline.
If you are coming from the Carson City area, a steep hill at the junction of Highway 28 and 50 is a popular sledding spot.
Just a half mile south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, a small play area is popular below the Tahoe Tavern Condos.
Ready for some serious sledding where you can enjoy the benefits of grooming and equipment rentals and not have to hassle with all the details? Some of the resorts provide “magic carpets,” which are an on-snow version of those moving walkways you find in large airports. While they are not free, heading to one of these resorts is like pushing the easy button.
Soda Springs Mountain Resort, Donner Summit
You can ride the magic carpet to the top of Tube Town and glide down more gentle terrain, or head to Super Tubercross with more challenging bumps and rollers. Soda Springs says they are “the best snow tubing at Tahoe,” and appeals to folks looking to experience the fun of a tubing park, without the crowds of a big resort. $25 for all day. www.skisodasprings.com, (530) 426-3901.
Playland Tubing, Boreal Mountain, Donner Summit
Next to the Nordic trails at Auburn Ski Club you will find Playland, which has a magic carpet and groomed tubing lanes. $25 for a two-hour session. www.rideboreal.com, (530) 426-3666.
Tahoe Donner, Trout Creek Recreation Area
This popular sledding area is located in California’s largest housing development just north of Truckee. $3-16, with under 3 free. www.tahoedonner.com, (530) 587-9437.
Northstar california resort
Find Northstar’s tubing center mid-mountain just above the Gondola exit and right in the middle of the action. Tubers are brought uphill via a tow lift. Tubing costs $30 for one hour, and ticket sales are limited. Northstar frequently sells out during busy weekends, so plan accordingly. www.northstarattahoe.com, (530) 562-2267.
Squaw Valley USA has SnoVentures, which provides a tubing hill and the Snoventures lodge to warm up afterwards. They also have a magic carpet ride, three tubing lanes, kids and adult tubes and charge $20 per hour. Sno Ventures is also the starting point for mini-snowmobile rides for kids, dog sledding and horse drawn carriage rides. www.squaw.com/snoventure, (530) 583-6955.
Just outside Tahoe City, this location provides groomed terrain for sledding. The price is $10, and they provide the saucers. The sledding hill is groomed and sits on a north facing slope, allowing sledding even during low snow years. They provide separate areas for young kids and the older kids to prevent crashes. www.granlibakken.com, (530) 581-7533.
Homewood Resort, Homewood
If you are heading for Tahoe’s west shore you can get your slide on at Homewood Resort’s snow play area which provides sled rentals or you can bring your own. An added bonus at Homewood: Awesome views of Lake Tahoe. $12. www.skihomewood.com, (530) 525-2900.
Tahoe City Golf Course
Tahoe City Winter Sports Park is brand new this year at the site of the Tahoe City Golf Course in the middle of Tahoe City. Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area is operating the winter sports park which will provide sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. They are creating a fenced off sledding hill and will provide sleds and trail pass for $10. The park will be open Friday to Monday, and the ski trails will be dog-friendly. www.tahoexc.org, (530) 583-1516.
North Tahoe Regional Park, Tahoe Vista
The regional park has excellent views from its snow play area where North Tahoe Winter Adventures provides sled rentals and sells tickets to the popular sledding spot. Call for pricing information, (530) 546-0605.
Before heading over to any of these locations, be sure and check the websites to make sure they are open and to verify the latest pricing information. Wear snow boots—but not ski boots!—waterproof pants, waterproof jacket, gloves and hats. Bring a snack and make a day of it.