It’s snowing out the window as I type: nice and light powder softening a fast-as-sin half-foot of hardpack that’s sure to send people older than me into local clinics or bed-rested fear. I can hear my kid racing back and forth through his new toys. He’s ready, he yells, to get outside sledding. What’s with us old farts?
Thank heavens it’s the first big slope-friendly day of the winter season, albeit a late one. We can just head out back, onto what local kids here in my hometown have secretly acknowledged as our burg’s best sledding hill for years. I just can’t let my home insurance brokers know that we know this.
Also, the time’ll come soon enough when Milo and his buddies will want to be around new crowds of sledders. Where to take them, or City guests up for a bit of winter fun?
Up here in the northern portion of the mid-Hudson Valley, I can look out onto the Catskills and recommend spots that’ll take a pretty drive to get to. There’s the long slope down from the Beatty-Powers Estate in Catskill, looking out to Olana, Frederic Church’s pad near Hudson (as well as a great spot over by the State Firemen’s home in the same city). All take long, tiring hauls back uphill for repeat runs. And yes, we know that’s part of the fun – but only when there are crowds with whom to share the toil. So we look southward some.
In Woodstock, what is officially known as Sled Hill Road is no longer the town’s sledding hill; that’s on Tinker Street/Route 212 just west of the hamlet, past Upstate Films’ cinema-in-a-church across from the post office, where many park who can’t find room on the roadway. It’s great fun, social as all get-out and not far from several hot chocolate hangouts in town.
In Saugerties, one of the most popular sledding spots is Snyder’s Farm Hill, off Route 212, on the right-hand side of the road, near where Route 212 meets 32. We like the big hill where artist Z. Willy Neumann places his cutout shapes, including one that actually says Saugerties. It’s not far from the Thruway, where Woodstock ’94 happened.
Across the river, in Staatsburg, just south of Rhinebeck, the Mills Mansion has a gorgeously long hill that overlooks the Hudson and Catskills. Talk about feeling to the manor born! There are similarly majestic sites at Poets’ Walk, on River Road approaching Bard College, and at Bard itself. The Livingston family seat Clermont, in Columbia County, actually urges folks to sled! So does the officialdom behind the beautiful Burger Hill Park on Route 9G just south of Rhinebeck.
Down in New Paltz, one can get a day pass up to the Mohonk Mountain House, where the golf course has been transformed into a snowtubing site for the winter. We’re planning a trip down to the Duzine School on Sunset Ridge Road in New Paltz, as well as to Thomas Felten Park in Modena, where fellow Almanac columnist Erica Chase-Salerno says that her kids have nearly gone airborne.
Erica also suggests the long hill behind the Highland Middle School and Cluett Schantz Memorial Park in Milton. You can pay to go snowtubing at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery, but officials there also maintain a free sledding hill – just as they do at Belleayre and several spots around Phoenicia.
Remember this: College students are big kids with cars. They really know where the good slipping and sliding is. According to that set, we hear that there are some major sledding opportunities all around Dutchess County Community College, as well as at Vassar. Also in Poughkeepsie, there’s Bartlett Park on Hooker Avenue, King’s Hill Park on Innis Avenue and (should we even mention this?) some great cemeteries with long hills all over the place that we won’t actively suggest for sledding, but is it really disrespectful to bring life to such places? Although that seems like another discussion: the ethics of sledding.
Better, instead, to talk about the mechanics: runner sleds or cafeteria trays, round saucers or toboggans? My wife remembers days in the Midwest when parents used old car hoods.
But there we go again, sliding back into those ethical questions. How about just heading out, and staying safe? Happy sledding!
Burger Hill, Rhinebeck, between Kerr Road and Violet Hill Road, (845) 876-4213, www.scenichudson.org or www.winnakeeland.org. Staatsburgh State Historic Park, Old Post Road, Staatsburg, (845) 889-8851 or 889-4100, http://nysparks.com/parks. Thomas Bull Memorial Park, Route 416, Montgomery, (845) 457-4949, www.orangecountynyparks.com