The hills are alive with the sounds of sledding

Dec. 10, 2002, midnight | By Michael Sidorov | 18 years, 1 month ago

With winter break around the corner and the first big snow already behind us, Chips' own Michael Sidorov looked for the best local sledding hills and ranked the sleds to go down them on. Note: Run times and average speeds calculated for a 5'6", 140-pound male. Times and speeds are the average of five runs. The same green plastic saucer was used at every hill.

Takoma Park Middle School—7611 Piney Branch Rd
Length: 110 feet
Angle: 16.3°
Time: 7.64 seconds
Average Speed: 9.82 mph

It's not the longest or the steepest, but it's the top local all-around hill complex. Complete with the main hill and a slightly smaller four-tier bumpy hill, Takoma Park Middle School gives riders all sorts of options and is usually quite crowded.
On the right side of the main hill, fast riders who can steam through a small field will be treated to another, smaller hill nestled between bushes. The small hill empties into a clearing in the nearby trees.

Tenbrook Ave—near the intersection of Dennis Ave and Sligo Creek Pkwy
Length: 152 feet
Angle: 13.2°
Time: 14.41 seconds
Average Speed: 7.19 mph

Unless you are five years old and this is your first time sledding, avoid this meager hill. One exciting feature, despite the lack of speed, is a group of three large trees that riders have to negotiate about three-fourths of the way down.

The hill ends at Sligo Creek Pkwy, but there is a fair amount of room to stop. You should be fine, unless your sled is rocket-powered.

Silver Spring International (SSI) Middle School—313 Wayne Ave
Length: 113 feet
Angle: 27.5
Time: N/A
Average Speed: N/A

The steepest hill of the bunch, SSI is very tempting but very dangerous. Use extreme caution. Riders who do not stop immediately have only 35 feet of flat ground before they run into oncoming traffic on Wayne Ave. I was too scared for this one, especially in the twilight.

However, kids did set up a jump on this steep, two-tiered hill that slowed their momentum significantly and prevented them from getting too close to the curb. SSI starts and finishes very steep, with a small flat path traversing it close to the top.

Highland View Elementary School—9010 Providence Ave
Length: 87 feet
Angle: 22.6°
Time: 6.75 seconds
Average Speed: 8.79 mph

The surprise of the bunch, Highland View is perhaps the least-known hill that gives a great ride. With angle of 22.6 degrees, it is the steepest hill that I dared try. Adventurous riders will enjoy a built-in bump towards the bottom that catches you at your fastest point.

The only negative is that the hill ends abruptly on an asphalt school driveway. Still, cars are not a factor, and there is some time to stop. When the driveway is not plowed, this exciting hill could be even better than it was for me.

Robert Frost Middle School—9201 Scott Dr, Rockville
Length: 183 feet
Angle: 19.8°
Time: 10.49 seconds
Average Speed: 11.90 mph

Robert Frost Middle School has the longest and fastest hill but is the farthest from Blair. If your driveway is not snowed in and you want to try something new, Frost is worth the 15 to 20-minute drive.

With a wider area to sled than Takoma Park Middle School, riders barely notice how crowded Frost is. One or two snow jumps are usually set up on different parts of the hill for those who think they can stay on their sleds. Another plus is that there are no obstacles except for a small stream on the left that is essentially out of play.

Similar to Takoma Park, two smaller hills at Frost draw some kids away from the main event. Don't fall for them. When you drive in, turn right at the first driveway and make sure you walk past the smaller hills.

Note: For sled ranking, all testing was conducted at Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville. Prices from Yahoo! and

Weight: 2.5 lb
Time: 10.49 seconds
Speed: 11.90 mph
Turning: C-
Price: $10.95-15.95

The classic plastic circle gives riders the option of riding face-first, but with a price. There is only an inch of hard plastic between you and the ground, and you can feel every little bump.

Controlling the sled is a problem, as I ran into a group of kids when I was turned around out of control. However, the saucer is light, cheap and fast and can handle all types of snow. Overall: B

Plastic Toboggan
Weight: 4.0 lb
Time: 10.83 seconds
Speed: 11.52 mph
Turning: A
Price: $19.95-39.95+

What this sled lacks in speed (not all that much) it makes up in control. Riders can cut an "S" pattern into the hill with their tracks by leaning in whichever direction they want to go. Also, the long base and string gives the option of standing up on smaller hills. When you ride the toboggan face-first, it is harder to steer and doesn't handle bumps well. Overall: A-

Runner Sled
Weight: 11.5 lb
Time: 12.89 seconds
Speed: 9.68 mph
Turning: B
Price: $48.95-69.95

The old-style wooden sled with metal runners is a much better choice for ice than for snow. Even on a tightly packed hill, the runners dig into the snow, making this the slowest of the sleds tested. However, it is very stable and can be turned with some effort. Riders don't feel the little bumps of the hill because the base is elevated about a foot from the ground. Another negative is the weight, especially when carrying the sled up hills. Overall: B- but A+ for ice storms

Inner Tube
Weight: 6.5 lb
Time: 8.61 seconds
Speed: 14.49 mph
Turning: F
Price: $10.25-34.95

Plain and simple, the inner tube is the fastest and hardest-to-control sled. Similar to the saucer, the inner tube spins you in circles, but it is much harder to use your feet as a brake. The thick tube provides great insulation and is the best sled for going over bumps. The inner tube is great for hills that have plenty of room for speeding, out-of-control riders. Overall: A-

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