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With this year’s snowy season nearly upon us, it’s almost time to bust out the long underwear, mittens and, most importantly, sleds, for another season of icy Kansas City weather. With last winter delivering a disappointing lack of snow, we can only hope that this season our snow dances, flushed ice cubes and spoons under our pillows will allow at least one day of pure sledding joy. While you wait on the edge of your seat for our first snow day, use this helpful guide to decide your level of sledding expertise. Then you can plan where to best enjoy your day of frolicking and sliding through Kansas City — if and when we get the flakes.
Bunny Slope: SME Baseball Field
Best for beginners, the hill by the SME baseball field should be right in a bunny sloper’s comfort zone. Safe enough for even the littlest of kids, this hill, which is not too long or steep, provides fun slides without much… well, any, danger. Daredevils, be warned: this hill won’t be thrilling enough for you. But don’t be deterred by this hill just because it’s not crazy extreme — It’s still a fun spot, and the hill is actually steep enough to make it hard to climb back up. Even better, it’s wide enough that you can slip down with bunches of fellow sledders and never have to worry about bumping into another sled.
Bonus points: if you bunny-slopers are feeling adventurous, try the nearby hill by the football turf and junior lot. This hill tends to not be as popular, probably since it’s distance from the usual spot feels like a trek when it’s five below zero. But that’s a plus: you can occasionally even have the whole thing to yourself. Just make sure your sled-steering skills are up to par: if you’re not careful, you can crash into the big puddles that sometimes form at the bottom of this hill. Also, be sure to lose some speed before you get to the fence that separates it from the football field (try directing your sled more sideways to slow down). If you fail to slow down, as a friend and I once learned, you can actually get stuck under the fence. So if all else fails, I would recommend you abandon ship rather than get wedged under there.
Blue Square: Black Widow, The Plaza
If your abilities exceed bunny slope-level but you aren’t quite prepared for a death-defying stunt just yet, then Black Widow is the place for you. This intermediate-level hill will provide the (relatively safe) thrills you’re craving. Just outside the Plaza shops close to the business buildings, this hill is easy enough to find thanks to the huge numbers this hill usually draws after a big snow. But trust me, it’s worth the effort to find a parking spot and wait your turn at the top of the hill. This long, but not insanely steep slope will give you a full afternoon’s worth squeals and excitement without completely breaking your back. A warning, though: this hill can get crazy crowded, so try your best not to run over any stray sledders as you rush down this incline. Though this hill isn’t as intense as a black diamond, it’s enough to make you worn out and longing for a cup of hot cocoa by the day’s end. And if you hit them just right, the icy caps at the bottom of the hill will get you airborne for just a few delightful seconds. But if you’re like me and aren’t careful about how you land, these icy snow ramps will send you into a wipeout. Though it’s a fun ride, I’ll warn you that when I went, I needed a nap and a couple of Advil by the time I got home. Maybe I’m meant to stick to the bunny slopes.
Black Diamond: Village Church/Mission Hills Slopes
Don’t hold me accountable for any broken bones if you choose to venture to this incredibly daring sled sight. Nestled between Village Presbyterian Church and Mission Hills (just past the bridge that goes over the creek), these concrete stairs could either be wildly, insanely fun or deadly dangerous — I’m not even sure if sledding here has ever been attempted before. About one and a half flights long and crazy steep (they are stairs, after all!), these steps are nearly “Jackass”-worthy. But that’s not even the craziest part: if you were to give this sledding site a try, there’s a pretty good chance that you could end up in the creek at the bottom of the stairs. I suggest that if you’re the daredevil that wants to attempt this, you: 1. Go with other people that have the ambulance on speed dial, and 2. Wait until those things are COVERED in packed snow. Even better would be if the snow has a little bit of a frozen crust to make your sled trajectory a bit smoother. Otherwise, all those cement bumps will definitely leave you with a broken tailbone or worse. But I have a feeling these steps would get shoveled pretty quickly, so if you really want a shot at sledding glory, go while the snow’s fresh. But above all else, I suggest you try your best to avoid a crash landing in the creek down at the bottom, even if it looks frozen.