Top spots for sledding on Long Island

With school canceled for the day, Sean Valentine,

With school canceled for the day, Sean Valentine, 9, of Sea Cliff, enjoys sledding at North Shore Country Club on Wednesday. (Feb. 10, 2010) (Credit: Kathy Kmonicek)

In the days following a snowstorm, we lament the ice-breaking, the kicking all that muck off our tire wells and the general annoyance it still provides.

But in that first day of snow falling from the sky, we're awash with the joy and excitement of playing in the fresh white powder. Building forts, throwing snowballs, making snowmen. And, of course, sledding!

It's a right of passage growing up on Long Island. Climbing a hill with a piece of plastic designed to make you race down that little mountain at speeds you never thought possible without the help of a car.

There are only a few days each year we get to partake in this winter tradition, so be prepared. Get your boots and gloves ready, your wool hat and hot chocolate, too. And of course, the directions from your home to any of these places.

NEWBRIDGE ROAD PARK

Short and steep, the lone hill at this Bellmore town park presents some of the best sledding you'll find. It's a round hill, which means everyone climbs to the top and can sled downhill in any direction.

Basically, imagine sleigh-riding down a giant gumdrop. The summit is close to two stories high and the ride to flat ground is about 50 feet long. If you get bored with the sledding, try the indoor ice skating rink at Newbridge Arena just across the way.

EISENHOWER PARK

If you're searching for a pulsating winter thrill ride, search elsewhere. But if you've got young children and want an ideal family atmosphere for your fun in the snow, this is where to go. Sled Hill at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow is wide and long with a gentle downgrade. Other Nassau County parks popular for sledding include Christopher Morley in Roslyn, Cedar Creek in Wantagh and Grant Park in Hewlett.

BETHPAGE STATE PARK

Plenty of money in recent years went into building the Bethpage Red into a championship course. What does that have to do with snow? Better hills! Better rides!

Bethpage State Park opens both the Red and Green courses for public sledding when weather permits. If you've ever played or driven past any golf course, you already know the advantages of sleigh-riding on such terrain.

HERMAN GRIEM PARK

Props to reader edbo123 for tipping us off to this delightful hill in Wheatley Heights in the comments below during the Blizzard of December 2010. The hill is big and wide, capable of handling more than 100 people and sleds.

There are two separate runs off the same hill. Standing atop the hill, to the right is a short and steep run that brings speed and excitement to its sledders. To the left is a longer run that is not as steep. It gives winter fun-seekers a chance to go dashing through the snow at a slower pace. But there are two separate ledges so if you get a nice long run, you'll have two shallow drops to enjoy.

HECKSCHER PARK

This hill begins right behind the Old First Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Huntington and leads you right into Heckscher Park. It's relatively small in terms of width, but the length and the decline will satisfy riders. There are four trees placed sporadically near the top of the hill that create natural lanes for older riders and alternate starting points for younger, less experienced sledders.

Four miles south, Koster Park in Huntington Station is pretty good for the little kids, too.

TAKE WHAT THEY GIVE YOU

Schools weren't built solely for educational purposes. OK, so maybe they were, but that shouldn't prevent you from getting the most of what schools offer, both in and out of the classroom. When you hear snow may be a-fallin', scout out your neighborhood schoolyards for decent hills. You'll be surprised what you may find. Local golf courses work well, too, but always call first. Some clubs, be it public or private, are not receptive to the idea.

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