ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in its backyard, Santa Fe is the perfect base for sledding adventures.
Finding a great place to sled is simple: Just head up Hyde Park Road toward the Santa Fe ski area.
The most popular spot is Hyde Memorial State Park, only about eight miles from the Santa Fe Plaza. Hyde Memorial, New Mexico’s first state park, is set in a forest of pine trees along Little Tesuque Creek.
“That’s an easy suggestion and one that’s close to Santa Fe,” says Steve Lewis, spokesman for the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Day use passes are $5 a vehicle. There are public restrooms and a small visitor center. Only plastic slides and inner tubes are allowed. Metal and wood are prohibited for safety reasons, says state parks spokeswoman Jodi Porter.
“It’s a great time,” she says. “It’s a blast. I did it as a kid, and I loved it.”
The park has lots of grassy hills that make for good sledding, Porter adds.
During the ski season, Cottam’s Ski Shop rents out the lodge building at Hyde Memorial and turns it into a store. The shop sells sleds as well as gloves, hats and the like. Snow pants and other winter clothing in sizes ranging from toddler to adult can be rented.
“We’ve got a lot of people covered,” says Katie Cherven of Cottam’s.
The store also sells snacks and hot chocolate and keeps a fire going in the fireplace inside.
“People sled down the hill right there and when they get cold, they can come in and warm up,” Cherven says, adding that there also is a fire pit outside.
The store opens the same day as Ski Santa Fe, usually between Thanksgiving and early December.
Cherven had one bit of advice for visitors to the state park: “Carpool if you can. It doesn’t have a very big parking lot.”
Plenty of choices
Farther up Hyde Park Road are more good sledding spots in the Santa Fe National Forest. Lewis made these recommendations:
Black Canyon: This area around the Black Canyon campground and trails is “more of a young kids’ kind of spot,” ideal for small children, he says.
Dale Ball Trails: On the opposite side of the road from the parking lot is an extensive trail system with some good hills for sledding. Lewis warns that the area is used heavily by sledders, hikers and others.
“Be aware of the multi-use nature of those trails,” he says. “Pick your spot carefully.”
Aspen Vista: Also a popular and busy trail area, this spot is particularly good for sledding on plastic saucers, Lewis says.
Sledding is not allowed at Ski Santa Fe when the area is open for skiing and the chair lifts are running, but sledders can ride down the slopes early in the day or in the evening, Lewis says.
When it comes to choosing a sled, there are plenty of options. Many stores sell inexpensive plastic sleds or discs for $20 or so. Even a cardboard box can work.
Cottam’s, for example, sells plastics discs and two-person toboggans for $19.95 to $29.95.
Alpine Sports in Santa Fe carries higher-end sleds made in Europe. One popular model has skis on the bottom, a steering control and a hand-operated metal brake. That sled can carry two people and sells for more than $100, says sales associate Barbara Park.
The store also carries a one-person, all-plastic sled with a handle that sells for about $50, she says.
Some people prefer inner tubes.
“The inner tubes are the best,” Porter says. “You have a little bounce to them. When you’re in a plastic sled and you’re sledding down and you hit a bump, you feel it on your rump.”
Professional Tire and Service Center sells inner tubes in different sizes, depending on the age of the sledder, for about $10. It also will fill them with air.
While sledding is good, clean fun, the National Safety Council warns that thousands of people are injured while sledding or tobogganing every year. Children between 5 and 9 are most susceptible to injury and should not sled alone.
The council also offers these safety tips:
Dress warmly enough for the weather conditions, and wear thick gloves or mittens and boots to protect against frostbite as well as injury.
Sled on gently sloping hills with a level run-off at the end. Avoid steep slopes and slopes near roads.
Check for bare spots, holes, rocks, trees and other hazards.
Keep all equipment in good condition. Broken parts, sharp edges and cracks invite injury.
The proper position for sledding is to sit or lie on your back at the top of the sled with feet pointing downhill.