Sledding & Tubing Tips from a Mammoth Mountain Snow Reporter

Skiing and snowboarding may take the spotlight for winter activities in Mammoth Lakes, but in a town where the ski resort gets an average of 400 inches of snow each winter, sledding and tubing are two fun snow sport to add to your winter trip itinerary. 

But just like other winter sports, snow conditions make all of the difference when it comes to sledding. Local snow expert and Mammoth Mountain snow reporter Austin Long shares the best types of snow for sledding and tubing, what types of sleds you can try and where to go sledding and tubing in Mammoth Lakes. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never tried it before—you’ll be racing down the hill in no time.

The Best Snow for Sledding or Tubing in Mammoth Lakes

Types of Snow for Sledding

You can find snow-covered hills in Mammoth Lakes well into the spring, but the best snow for sledding is snow that finding snow that hasn’t gotten too sun-baked or patchy.

“Snow falling on a 25-to 30-degree day is ideal,” Long says. “If it’s much colder out, the snow can be too light and the sled will have trouble staying on top of it.”

Fortunately, Mammoth Lakes doesn’t get too cold very often. And we often have storms with big snowflakes, which pack together well for sledding.

“For the best sledding conditions, you want fresh snow on top of a good base,” Long says. Wherever you go, make sure the snow base is deep enough that you won’t be running into or over shrubs or small trees.

Finding the Perfect Run

To find a good run, look for a wide open hill without trees or other obstacles. Check that the run ends in a safe place—avoid roads, trails, heavily-trafficked areas, etc.

The steeper the hill, the faster your sled will go. After going over the same run multiple times, the snow will get more and more packed down, which also contributes to speed. Be sure to take both slope and how packed the snow is into account to stay at a speed you’re comfortable with on the hill.

Types of Sleds & Where to Find Them in Mammoth Lakes

Types of Sleds

Sled technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Modern toboggan sleds are rectangular and usually made of plastic. They can fit up to three people, and if conditions are good, they can speed down a hill. Saucers are the other most common option—a smaller round sled that fits just one person. Both types of sleds work well for kids and adults.

We consulted one of Mammoth Mountain’s snow reporters, Austin Long, to get his take on sledding conditions and techniques. “I grew up skiing on the classic saucer, but recently I’ve seen foam sleds like a boogie board that you ride head first, so I want to try that out,” Long says. “That might be the most fun you can have on a sled.”

Whether you end up with a toboggan, a saucer or a foam sled, keep in mind that sledding should always be done with caution.

On a steep enough hill on any sled, Long says, “You’re likely going to be completely out of control. You’re at the mercy of the terrain you’ve decided to go down.” But when done safely, sledding can be the ultimate way to experience winter in Mammoth Lakes.

Where to Buy Sleds in Mammoth Lakes

If you don’t bring one with you, there are plenty of shops that sell them throughout the winter:

NOTE: If you’re looking for a particular type of sled, call ahead to see what each shop has in stock.

Where to Go Sledding in Mammoth Lakes

Sledding on Fresh Snow and Open Terrain

The most popular sledding and snow play areas in Mammoth Lakes are the Mammoth Scenic Loop, Shady Rest Park and the Mammoth Lakes Basin. In each location, you can choose your own adventure once you get there—you might be able to scout out a good spot from where you park, but be prepared to walk as needed.

Many people find sledding hills right outside where they are staying in Mammoth Lakes, but be careful on sled hills in condo complexes or hotels. Snow plows have right of way and are often working around the clock, so steer clear of places snow plows and cars might go.

NOTE:  Sledding and snow play on the groomed Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center trails is prohibited. Be sure to stay off all groomed cross-country ski trails in the Mammoth Lakes Basin to avoid collisions with skiers and disturbing the groomed tracks.

Tubing on Groomed Snow

If you’re looking for the safest and easiest place for snow play, Woolly’s Tube Park & Snow Play at Mammoth Mountain is the place to go. Snow tubes are provided, and the park is open daily (weather permitting) from 10 am to 5 pm. Reservations for tubing lanes are recommended. There’s also a snow play area—perfect for building snowmen or making snow angels after you go tubing.

The tube park is perfect for people of all ages, Long says. “You get towed up the hill and you can warm up with a hot chocolate between runs.” Kids can go in a tube with their parents or in their own tube, and everyone can choose what kind of experience they want to have.

Jessica Kennedy

Jessica Kennedy moved to California's Sierra Nevada mountains in 2014 for three months. Years later, she still hasn't had enough. After a year living in Yosemite National Park, she moved to Mammoth Lakes for the summers but fell in love with every season. When she's not doing freelance writing and marketing, she's getting up close…

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