Snow is a wonderful thing. It is gorgeous and useful for building. It can also be wonderfully slippery, allowing people to hurtle down hills in all kinds of conveyances.
Sledding and tubing are ways that kids can explore the potential of snow, using simple, affordable tools that do not require lessons to master. And while you’re there, take some time to build a snow-creature, pelt each other with snowballs, catch a snowflake on the tongue, make snow angels and stop and listen to the way sounds travel when the world is covered in white.
There are two kinds of options listed here: sled hills and tube parks.
With sledding, you use a toboggan or sled or a tube that you buy. Some toboggans and sleds are theoretically possible to steer. Some are not. You don’t need a special track, but you’ll go farther if you are on a hill that has already been sledded on. (A few choice spots are groomed from time to time.) And once you sled down the hill, you have to carry your sled back up the hill.
At a tube park, you go downhill riding a round inflated tube that is provided as part of the ticket price. It is impossible to steer, so places with tubing tend to have specially designed chutes that will send your tube rocketing down without bumping into other people. Once you sled down the hill, you ride some kind of lift, or at least a rope tow, back to the top. For this reason, access to tubing always involves tickets and waivers. It may also require reservations.
Before you go, check the conditions. A number of places take a little while to get enough snow, so they are likely to open later than ski areas tend to. And if they are open, you don’t want to drive two hours to the sledding spot, only to find it is raining or so cold your face hurts.
Here are some local hotspots for families sliding downhill on snow. Driving time estimates are based on leaving Seattle at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning. (More mountain fun: Downhill ski areas you can drive to from Seattle | 8 places Seattle families can go cross-country skiing)
Easy to reach sled hill in Lake Easton State park. It is groomed from time to time, and has heated bathrooms. There's a lovely cross-country ski trail nearby.
Driving time from Seattle: 1 hour
Elevation: About 2,500 feet
Conditions: Recorded message line 509-656-2230
Activity: Tubing hill and designated snow play area.
Open 8 a.m. until dusk daily.
In the summer, Lake Wenatchee is a popular camping getaway. In the snow, there’s still fun to be had. Along with the tubing hill and snow play area, there are also trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Driving time from Seattle: 2.5 hours
Elevation: About 1,875 feet
Conditions: Lake Wenatchee State Park's phone number is 509-763-3101
Activities: Tubing hill and snow play area.