A Sledding Tour of Southwest Minneapolis
The Southwest Dad takes his son on a sledding tour of the neighborhoods.
With this year’s record snowfalls, it would be a shame to pass up some of the best sledding in the Cities. Southwest Minneapolis isn’t as flat as it seems at first glance, but you may need a little help finding the best spots for you and your child to risk life and limb hurtling uncontrollably down a frozen hill. So on a recent Saturday afternoon, my six-year-old son Max and I hit as many slopes as I could convince him to go down in his standard red plastic sled. Here they are, in ascending order of age-appropriateness:
48th and Grand; Park on Harriet, south of 48th Street
Upon first glance, Max dismissed this low hill in Tangletown as “lame, lame.” But from a single launch point at the southwest corner of the park, sliders can choose a short, steep run due north, or a longer, more scenic route that takes them northeast toward, past, or into the playground. Protective hay bales have been thoughtfully shrink-wrapped onto the trees, the backs of the park benches, and the light poles. This is a perfect spot for younger and beginning sledders; once he got started, Max didn’t want to leave. Unfortunately we still had lots of hills left to go.
55th and York; Park where Zenith dead-ends north of 56th
Located just two blocks beyond the Edina border, the casual slope-scouter might overlook this one if passing on York Avenue near Minnehaha Creek. But the park’s back entrance from the south takes the form of a long drop down into the flatlands. The sledding course is a wide avenue devoid of trees, with plenty of room to come back up while others are going down. Best of all, the neighbors have put some effort into making the top of the hill comfortable for supervising parents, with a group of patio chairs. All that’s missing is a cocoa stand.
51st and Newton
The Minnehaha Creek Valley comes through again. When you arrive at this unmarked lot in Lynnhurst and look down toward the bottom of the raked triangle formed by Newton Avenue, 51st Street, and a northeast bend of the creek, the long line of hay bales leaning against a hurricane fence may seem a little too far away to be necessary, but Max and I bumped into them pretty firmly. Snow bunnies can opt for the relatively gentle slopes that start on the 51st street side, or take one of the steeper, longer runs from the Newton side. For true daredevils, there’s a trio of deep ice-divots carved near the bottom of the steepest course that’ll jar your brain loose. This is probably the best Southwest option for a group of kids that range in age and experience.
Park on 40th Street between Dupont and Bryant
There are sledding hills, and there are sledding holes. Located in East Harriet, this is one of the latter. Sledders can coast down into a wide basin whose sides vary greatly in steepness. The top is fringed with groves of trees, which is at least better than having them at the bottom. From the basin’s eastern edge, its most precipitous, you can look straight down at a steep, giant, mogul-ridden skidmark that should be marked with black diamonds, or straight across the landscape into Lakewood Cemetery. Which, from this vantage point, seems grimly appropriate. Max laughed at me while I went down alone, got snow up inside my pants to the thigh, and lost my car keys.
Park at 45th and Upton
This sprawling hillside park in Linden Hills boasts a commanding overview of Lake Harriet, but it’s littered with so many trees that most of the sled tracks we saw cut across it laterally. However, at the north end of the park is a narrow right of way whereby a sledder who is either suicidal or very good at steering might attempt to slide almost two city blocks, all the way to Lake Harriet Parkway. Someone has thoughtfully but futilely constructed snow-berms in front of the three or four massive oaks through which you’ll have to thread the proverbial needle at the fastest part of the hill, but we wouldn’t count on them to protect you or your kids from death or paralysis. In fact, stay away from this hill entirely unless your sled is equipped with an airbag.
Conditions will vary based on weather and how ambitious/mischievous the last batch of kids was feeling, and Patch is not responsible for any sledding injuries. Not even mine.