With a weekend forecast calling for snow, snow, and more snow, what better way to spend your time than by digging out the old krazy karpet, trudging up the nearest tobogganing hill, and letting gravity do the rest? Here’s a handy guide to some of the most popular Ottawa-area hills that are guaranteed to bring out that inner daredevil. Trust me: whether it’s hot chocolate or carefully-hidden whisky you’re toting up the hill with you, you’ll need some courage to tackle these sledding hot spots.
Carlington Park Ski Hill – Carlington off Carling Avenue
To my knowledge, this is the only former ski hill in the city’s west end. Operating until the 1970s, Carlington Hill now annually gets taken over by the bravest of tobogganers. It’s very steep, and for anyone over 12, the unused chairlift is very tempting. There are usually many jumps carved into the snow, and you’ll often see a few snowboarders trying to get some curves. Essentially, Carlington Hill is two hills in one, the highest being the steepest and showcasing a platform before the second hill. Sure, there are lights for nighttime sledders, but again, this hill is not for the faint of heart. (OC Transpo riders will be happy to know, however, that the #14 takes you right there!)
Experimental Farm Hill – the Arboretum, Prince of Wales Drive
While the Experimental Farm hill serves as a beautiful lookout during the fall, come first snowfall, it turns into an exceptionally popular sledding hill with different grades of steepness and the potential for thrilling, dangerous spins. It’s a great hill to get your Winterlude spirits going, since if you aren’t too sore after a day of tobogganing, Dow’s Lake and the Rideau Canal are both within walking distance. Be warned, however: There are trees dotting the hill’s landing spots, although they get wrapped in straw by the NCC during the winter so you don’t feel quite so much like a human pinball.
Hog’s Back Park – off Prince of Wales’ Drive in Nepean
The hill at Hog’s Back Park might not be huge, but is excellent training ground for some of the city’s bigger ones. It’s a great site for parents with small children – the snow is always covered with hundreds of little boot imprints. There’s also a chain-link fence at the bottom that many a kid has faceplanted into (including this writer).
Mooney’s Bay – Riverside Drive South of Heron
During the summer it’s doubtful you’ll want to stray from the beach and climb this bad boy, but if you do in the winter, you’re in for a tobogganing treat. This hill gives quite a view of the area, rivaling even with the 13-story apartments across the street.
Conroy and Bruce Pit – Bruce Pit is on the east side of Cedarview Road south of Baseline Road. Conroy Pit is on the west side of Conroy Road just south of Hunt Club Road.
These Greenbelt spots are mainly used as off-leash dog parks, but they’re not just for the canines. Both used to be sand/gravel pits and are on land that’s managed by the NCC. There’s one large hill at the north end of the Conroy pit that’s surrounded by urban forest trails, while the nearby Green’s Creek Nature Conservation area – off Bearbrook Road, between St. Joseph Blvd. and Innes Road – also has hilly, dog-free terrain.
You don’t have to go to the high school this hill is located behind to see its sledding potential. It’s on the west side of the pedestrian bridge that spans the OC Transpo parkway and heads straight to Woodroffe High School. In fact, every winter, thousands of bus commuters spy tobogganers as they zip by to Baseline Station. It’s off of the Elmhurst Street opening to the bike path.
Vincent Massey Park
Across the way from Carleton University by the Rideau River, the hill at Vincent Massey Park attracts many sledding newbies. There are no groomed trails and the area is mainly used by cross-country skiers since the Experimental Farm hill is a short walk away.
Walter Baker Park – Kanata
This is a very tall hill (one that therefore requires a lengthy climb) that’s located in Kanata and is popular with suburban kids.
Upper Aylmer Road – Aylmer, Québec
If you’re up for a five-minute trip across the bridge, there’s a lovely hill behind the Chateau Cartier hotel that attracts French and English thrill-seekers alike – after all, the sport of tobogganing needs no language but “Aaaahhhh!” and “Wheeeee!” Park south of the parking lot for Sam Snead’s.
There are also Quebec ski resorts like Mount Pakenham (Ontario) and Edelweiss (Québec) which offer snow tubing. They’ll provide you with a blown-up inner tube that can be raced on a secure course and even offer you the option of pulling you up the hill in your tube. Prices are about $10 per person, but the experience is sure to be a hit with the entire family.
Just remember to wear warm, brightly coloured clothes, stick to the side when climbing up, avoid open water, wait your turn, and for goodness sake, let your little brother go first! For a list of more hills in your area check out Ottawa Start’s tobogganing guide.