By Marianne Weaver
According to this year’s Farmers’ Almanac, Prince William residents will have the opportunity to break out their sleds, tubes, snowshoes and skis this winter. Based on the publication’s 200-year-old formula, this winter is expected to be much colder than last year’s, and precipitation is expected at above-normal levels throughout the country. That means snow days and sledding!
Steve King, sledmaster of SledRiding.com, created a nationwide sled riding hill database in December 2004. “I had turned to the Internet to search for some more sledding hills around my area in Missouri for my son Christian and me. Unfortunately, to my dismay, there wasn’t much information online regarding sledding hill locations,” he said. “I really wanted to find some new sled riding hills, possibly even better hills than the one that we’ve been going to for years. I knew there had to be more sledding
hills in our area, but finding them would be the tricky part …. or so it seemed.”
The site is composed of visitor submissions. A good listing, he said, includes lots of details. For starters, all sites submitted must be public and include directions on how to access the hill. “A location is made great by the slope and length of the hill with no hazards,” he said. “The more of a slope (say 45+ degrees of an
angle) and the longer (say 400+ ft.) it is, it makes for a great ride!”
Today, the database includes 870 listings, 16 of which are in Virginia. King hopes Prince William residents will add to that list this winter.
As soon as local meteorologists predict any sort of accumulation, Prince William residents take to the Internet—neighborhood Facebook pages, YELP, and regional websites—searching for sledding recommendations. Through the years, a few spots have repeatedly topped the recommendation lists: Signal Hill Park, the hill near the Stone House in the Manassas National Battlefield Park, the open space near the Bull Run Swim & Racquet Club, and James S. Long Regional Park.
Signal Hill Park (9300 Signal View Drive) is located in Manassas Park, and the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation maintains it. The park is open from dawn until dusk, seven days a week. Parking is plentiful. There are designated lots and also a row of parking spaces.
“The park rules are fairly generic and are posted at the entrance,” noted Jason Shriner, marketing manager with the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation. “Other than parking, the two rules that may be relevant during sledding would be that pets must be on leashes and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.”
Stone House (12521 Lee Highway, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Manassas)
The hill is located at the intersection of Route 29 and Sudley Road. Although the facilities are closed, the parking lot is open. Rangers warn visitors to be careful of the little creek that meanders through the park.
Bull Run Swim & Racquet Club (8101 Seymour Road, Manassas)
According to sledding.com, the hill next to the club is comparable to the typical bunny hill at a ski resort with thick woods on either side of the run. However, visitors should stay out of the woods. Also, there is a street and creek at the bottom of the hill, although most say sleds generally don’t go that far. Parking is available.
James S. Long Regional Park (4603 James Madison Highway, Haymarket)
Unlike the other popular sledding locations, this location features both hills and trails. The park gates are open, weather permitting, from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. There are no public restrooms open during the winter months, only porta-johns in the park. Parking is permitted in designated parking spaces only. Fires are prohibited. The park may be closed at times due to road conditions inside the grounds.
Schools in Session … for Sledding
When classes are cancelled, some local schools offer students (and their families) a place to play. No need to drive a long distance to find the perfect hill; these school slopes are located right in the neighborhood, and all have ample parking.
“Hampton Middle School has a good drop with a long leveling out at the end to slow down,” said Joe George of Dale City. “We go there every [time there’s a] decent snow—light snow melts too fast there. I’d advise anyone that enjoys the snow to invest in a plastic sled. It’ll get a lot of great use.” Hampton Middle
School is located at 14800 Darbydale Avenue, Woodbridge.
Other local schools with sledding slopes include:
- Springwoods Elementary School, 3815 Marquis Place, Woodbridge;
- Lake Ridge Elementary School, 11970 Hedges Run Drive, Woodbridge; and
- Rippon Middle School, 15101 Blackburn Road, Woodbridge.
King suggested that families consult SledRiding.com for updated information about the longest runs and greatest slopes. “That will ensure a fun trip,” he said. “If you find a great location and it is not listed on the site, please submit it via the form on the website, so others can enjoy it too.”
Marianne Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.