For an epic sled run that drops nearly 500 feet in less than a mile, visit what some locals call “The Luge” off Arctic Valley Road in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains just east of town. Depending upon on snow conditions, it takes intrepid sledders three-to-five exhilarating minutes to descend a narrow chute-like trail to the bottom. Think rollercoaster on snow. It’s a scream.
Located on Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, the run basically follows an old jeep trail down the mountain. Most people drop sledders off at the top using vehicles and then pick them up at the bottom. It’s not too steep for kids to go solo, although they need to be self-sufficient and able to stop themselves. Wipe-outs happen!
With new snow and soft conditions, the route can be a leisurely cruise down a frosted forest, with easy steering and a pleasant ride. But once the surface gets packed down and grows icy, the tree-and-brush-lined run morphs into a fast and bumpy careen full of thrills, chills and spills.
- For best results, try a rectangular plastic sled with runnels on the bottom to augment tracking. Consider placing a pillow or other material in the sled bottom to cushion against those joint-snapping bumps. (Plus it’s warmer.)
- Younger kids probably should ride with an adult or older child, at least at first. Solo sledders need to be able to steer a bit to keep from shooting off trail, and be capable of an emergency stop if they come upon a wipe-out.
- Ride sitting up with feet to front and hands at side ready to brake against the surface. Don’t lie down on belly and descend face first.
- Need helmets? Maybe. When the run gets slick and hard, speed increases, sometimes to 12 to 15 mph. This raises the risk of a head bonk or injury during a tumble. Consider taking the same precautions that you would for cycling.
Other places to sled in Anchorage:
- Kincaid Park. (Far west end of Raspberry Road) A very popular family destination, this decently long run descends the hill immediately north of the Outdoor Center, just off the parking lot. Some lighting, with access to restrooms and warm-up when the center is open.
- Russian Jack Springs Park. (Lydia Selkregg Lane and Debarr Road, halfway between Pine Street and Boniface Parkway.) Using a hill that once featured a rope tow for skiers, this sledding hill descends just south of the chalet. Padding has been placed around poles in the run out. Lighting, with access to restrooms and warm-up when chalet is open.
- Centennial Park. (8300 Glenn Highway. Just south the Glenn Highway, turn east off Muldoon Road onto Boundary Avenue. One block later, turn left (north) onto Starview Drive and take it as it trends east parallel to the highway. Park entrance is a half mile up Starview.) Features a couple of decent ski-hill-like runs carved from the forest.