Sledding in Utah: It’s Not Just For Kids

Most of my sledding memories were formed on the hilly golf course next to my childhood home in Northern Michigan. But after I moved to Utah in my mid-twenties and had kids in my mid-thirties, I found that my hometown sledding terrain pales compared to the sledding opportunities to be had here. Sledding was a part of most winter weekends when my kids were young; a practice that waned as they entered high school. Recently, however, I’ve realized that whooshing down a snowy slope on a plastic sled is not only fun but a fabulous complement to all the other winter sports I like to do, too. 

The leg muscles we use to propel ourselves up to the top of the sledding hill—gluteus maximus and quadriceps—are also the prime movers for skiing and snowboarding. But that’s not all that gets worked on a sledding hill climb, so says Michael Krushinsky, owner and head coach at Wasatch Fitness Academy. “Additionally and at least as valuable, is how it works your body’s responsiveness to changing terrain,” he says, “Slight undulations in the ground, slipping a bit in the snow and slogging through untracked snow, all ask the body to instantly use stabilizing muscles to support the hips, knees and ankles in ways that are beyond the demand of walking uphill on pavement.” Pulling weight behind you, like a young child in a sled, for example, gets your torso, abs and back muscles in on the action, Krushinsky added.

Adult Sledding

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Author Melissa Fields, her sweet pooch Bell (seen here photo bombing), Christine Mikell, Jen Mijangos and Kelly Bollow.

Along with the physical benefits, I’d argue that adult sledding offers a pretty unique mental health boost. Last winter I began joining my neighbor in her before-work sledding sessions, and I found that on the days I sledded, I felt a bit lighter, more settled and generally happier for the remainder of the day. The fresh air and exercise were probably part of the equation, but I also attribute the bump to laughter. Something about flailing uncontrollably down a hillside, trying to avoid trees and other obstacles with snow flying on my face, strikes me as hilarious. Turns out my post-belly-laugh good vibes are not all in my head. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter enhances oxygen intake, activates and relieves the stress response and soothes tension, leaving the laughter with a greater sense of well-being that can last for hours.

Adult Sledding Hills

As you may have gathered, the physical and mental benefits of adult sledding are mostly about hiking uphill and then using a sled to avoid the knee-wearing walk back down. While sledding hills like Sugar House Park, Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Flat Iron Mesa Park in Sandy and Mountain Dell Golf Course in Parley’s Canyon are home to some of the area’s most popular sledding venues, they are not as ideal for adult sledding. Neff’s Canyon, Millcreek Canyon, Park City’s Round Valley and City Creek Canyon (closed most weekdays until 2027) provide a steady, longish and not-too-steep but still heart-pumping uphill hike followed by an easily navigable descent. 

Just remember to keep an eye out for other trail users, like hikers and skiers, on  your downhill runs and prepare to yield (basically, wreck) to make way for uphill traffic. Happy sledding! 

Sleds that Shred

Zipfy Mini Luge Sled, $54.99, Scheels. This sleek, compact luge-style snowslider is easy to carry uphill and provides a fun, core-challenging ride on the way down. Recommended for tighter, already broken-in sledding zones.

Flexible Flyer 48-inch Snow Boat, $28.99, Ace Hardware. This classic sled has a grooved undercarriage for better steering, a cushioned seat to help absorb the bumps and is extra wide to allow for a small passenger.

Adult Sledding

L.L. Bean Polar Slider DLX Sled, $69. This high-quality plastic sled is an upgrade that is fast and light but still steerable. It comes with a durable nylon webbing tow rope, ideal for hauling a small child back up the hill.

Melissa Fields
Melissa Fields
Melissa (O' Brien) Fields is a contributing editor to Utah Bride & Groom magazine and a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. She is an accomplished freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience.

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