Sledding for my kids means charting their own course down powdery hills, making snow forts, and engaging in a snowball fight or two…most of which is not on offer at major ski resort tubing parks. While we enjoy resort parks in Lake Tahoe for low-key thrills, we crave more adventure and flexibility. (I also crave lower prices.) If your kids agree that ski resort tubing parks are often too tame, check out Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe. Located on Highway 50 near Echo Summit (three miles from Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort), Adventure Mountain is an old-school sledding hill with approximately a dozen blazed trails down the side of a large hill and room for you to create your own. The snow at the base of the mountain has been groomed into berms to keep tubes and sleds from whizzing right into the parking lot, but we’ve still seen it happen. This is completely a do-it-yourself mountain, with few rules and regulations. Families can rent sleds and tubes if needed, and there’s a small day lodge with shelter and a snack bar, but we bring our own snacks or lunch and eat it picnic style on sunny Tahoe days. The runs are divided into beginner and advanced, so yes, there is a place for small children and more cautious sledders, and kids love the ability to start small and get more daring as the day goes on. We visited on a December day during the holiday break, and while crowded, there were enough runs to keep waiting to a minimum. The sledding paths at Adventure Mountain are accessed by walking trails up the side (not rope tow or magic carpet here!) so you’ll earn your hot chocolate break!
Adjacent to the sledding hills is the entrance to a network of cross-country and snowshoeing trails, so family members can certainly split up and participate in different winter sports. The mountain is open 9 am or 10 am (depending on day) to 4:30 pm (no lights here!), and you can certainly stay all day. If you do, bring extra gloves and socks for the kids and stow them in the car, which is close enough to access any time. We spent as much time playing in the snow with other families as we did sledding, and those dry layers were welcome. There’s space for fires in marked fire pits, and on cold or stormy days, sanctuary can be had in the lodge. There are no helmet requirements at Adventure Mountain, but for what it’s worth, we highly recommend you require them of your kids. We had a few tumbles for which we were grateful for ours. Best of all, the cost of Adventure Mountain is just $20 per car load. No individual entry fee whatsoever. Rentals vary, but if you come with your own sleds and a packed lunch, you've got yourself a fabulous $20 day in Tahoe.