The quick and the sled: A downhill guide to Juneau

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2008

The time-honored activity of sledding on Juneau hillsides is the cheapest and wildest wintertime entertainment available, many riders say.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The act of surmounting a slope with any sort of decline has never lost its seasonal sparkle. These days, the round plastic discs and flat plastic roll-outs have been replaced by thick foam speedsters. Whatever people are riding, the game remains the same. In this recreational tradition, fun remains ever constant on the participants' agenda.

Fun, plain and simple fun.

Parents do the work of toting sleds and toddlers up to the top as screams and shouts of exhilarating glee continuously fly by in race car- or freight train-like fashion. There are no fashion statements on these slopes, as some may get sucked into finding on the ski hill. No, it is the fun that matters.

Sugar-coated in a powdery tangle, strangers become instant chums. Aging business men seek refunds from their long dry fountain of youth by swearing back the decades and attempting to take the same plunge down the same line as their invincible teenage children. And moms whoop and holler their way down the kiddy slopes, aghast with apprehension of the tumbling roll they will or will not take when they try to excavate themselves from the children's sled they are sitting in as they come to a dead stall at the end of the hill. This is the season of the sled. This is winter.

Recent rain and warm weather has cut into the snow, but sledders will be ready after the next snow storms add up. The following location descriptions may offer positive aspects or drawbacks for that location. Nevertheless, each location in the listing is guaranteed to offer a good idea of what you can expect and where you can expect to find the fun.


• Savikko Park - Treadwell Arena and Third Street

The hillside is broken into two tiers separated by a walking path. The short and fast upper section leads into a nice coast toward nearby parking lots.

• Eaglecrest Tubing Area - Eaglecrest Ski Area

Fun enough for well seasoned sledding veterans, fast enough for James Dean, and by far the best thing ever invented, say the kids. Hands down though, the best part is the tube-tow back up the hill.


• Cope Park - the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Calhoun Avenue

Mount Juneau and the ball park's surrounding scenery is amazing, bested only by the Mendenhall Glacier. The 125 foot run provides a solid 20 minutes of adult entertainment. Also, there is some construction underway next to the tennis courts, and a cargo container is in the direct sledding path making this a potentially hazardous excursion. Pummeling into that container would be bad news. Hopefully it will get moved before too long.

• Evergreen Cemetery - atop Seater Street and Hermit Street

The hill is well lit at night and dropping down the initial 30-45 degree incline provides plenty of propulsion to scoot across 200 feet of adventurously grave terrain. Be prepared for spontaneous bumps, turns, and spins, and a long walk back to the top of the hill.

• Twin Lakes - near Project Playground on Glacier Highway

Last year's construction project removed the park's better sledding lines, but there are still fun runs to be had here in a very safe environment. Let your toddler decide if this is a good location to go sledding. The child's viewpoint is always correct when it comes to sledding. If nothing else, there is a whole lot more to do after the kids get bored with the hill.

• Salmon Creek Reservoir Access Road - at the pump station pullout before the Channel Drive stoplight en route to Mendenhall Valley

Long and fast, this is a hot-dogger's delight when the conditions are right. Possibly the longest hill hike in the bunch, which in turn has its rewards. Stopping safely before floundering into a fence is the main concern on this goggle-boggler.

Mendenhall Valley

• Floyd Dryden Middle School - at 3800 Mendenhall Loop Road

It is amazing how two dinky piles of dirt can keep so many people thoroughly thrilled. On a busy day, people may experience a short wait time at FDMS, yet it has the community's best natural terrain park. The runs are stunted in length, but the variety of tree runs, bumps, whoopty-doos, and jumps is second to none.

• Mendenhall Visitor Center - at the Mendenhall Glacier viewing area

Juneau's gem classic for scenery. A wide range of runs exists with a good variety of declines. The hills are never too busy to accommodate another sled, and people-watching is an added bonus. Cross-country skiers, dogs, eagles, and possibly a wolf can be seen while gazing upon the glacial scenery.

• Auke Bay Elementary - at 11880 Glacier Hwy

Not very well known or steep, this is a local secret hardly worth sharing, lest under the age of 6.

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