Choosing Slides

Choosing Slides

Friday was a formidable day. Dervishes of powder whipped across the ground. Bare branches creaked like haunted house doors. The cold air burned. But the sun was out, and so were dozens of kids (and a few brave parents), taking some of the first sledding runs of the new year in snow that seemed as light and dry as sand.

In Edgerton Park, several children, including one red-cheeked Australian visitor who’d never experienced snow before, were sliding down a hill at the edge of a broad meadow. Located near the gate at Cliff Street and Whitney Avenue, the hill is great for little kids but also a bit flexible, with a gentler slope at one end and a steeper slope at the other. Parents congregated at the top, where they could view the sledders in the foreground and the cliffs of East Rock in the distance.

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A few minutes away, just off Davis Street, other sledders had taken runs down the North Meadow of East Rock Park, leaving telltale tracks. The descent there is long and mild, which is a good thing given the trees at the end.

To the north, in Hamden, Pine Rock Park offers a steeper, longer hill and packs a bigger punch than you’d think. Starting in a grove of trees, the snowy hill drops to ball fields beside a small parking area off Reyna Road. Also in Hamden, the town’s former golf course, now known as Town Center Park, offers a popular spot along Dixwell Avenue. You can park at the Miller Memorial Library or Hamden Middle School and hike in to the gazebo, which sits at the bottom of a small hill used as an amphitheater in summer and a place to slide and glide in winter.

Not surprisingly, golf courses tend to offer the biggest, clearest hills and thrills. On New Haven’s east side, Alling Memorial Golf Club offers “a gentle slope the length of a football field for those who want a long slow ride, and steep slope about half that length for those who like a little more speed and excitement,” as one Fair Haven Heights resident described them. A few brave souls were trying out both options, etching tangled hillside tracks like hair in need of a comb.

To the west, just over the border, the Country Club of Woodbridge golf course was by far the most popular spot of the day, with about a dozen kids flying down one windswept hill. The drifts were spectacular, with grass peeking through in some spots and snow thigh-deep in others. Looking down from the top was actually a little bit scary. The ride was fast enough to get you airborne, especially if you hit one of the jumps the daredevils have built. To reach this stellar spot, follow Fountain Street into Woodbridge and turn left onto Johnson Road. Park there or on Fairview Road, a side street, and trek onto the course.

Some of the area’s once beloved sledding hills are now off-limits—New Haven Country Club, the grounds of West Haven’s Our Lady of Victory Church—due to safety concerns. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following safety tips for sledding: Always sit in a forward-facing position. Sled only in approved areas where there are no obstructions such as trees or posts. And don’t sled on a hill that ends at a street, pond or other hazard. They also suggest that young children wear helmets.

Grownups can take precautions, too, but don’t let that stop you from acting like a kid. There’s nothing quite like soaring down a hill, feeling the snow-packed bumps beneath your sled and the spray of snow on your face—then getting up, dusting yourself off and hurrying back to the top for another run.

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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