Winter isn’t exactly my favorite season. I like the first couple of times it snows, but the gray skies, cold temperatures, and salty roads wear on me pretty quickly.
Luckily, though, there are a lot of cool wintry things to do in northeast Ohio. Even just within the Cleveland Metroparks, you can go for winter hikes, rent snowshoes, or even go cross-country skiing!
But the most unique thing to do near Cleveland in the winter has to be flying down the toboggan chutes at the Chalet in Strongsville.
Strongsville toboggan chutes
Located in the Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville, the toboggan chutes are a winter tradition in this part of Ohio; families have been sliding down them for more than 50 years!
The twin toboggan chutes are refrigerated (and always have been), meaning they can be operated even when there isn’t any snow. When they were first built in 1966, they were the very first of their kind anywhere in the world.
Today, the 700-foot-long toboggan chutes are a must-do for many Cleveland families in the winter.
I somehow managed to make it through 32 winters in northeast Ohio without experiencing the toboggan chutes. (Shame on me, I know!) But I decided to fix that this winter, when my husband and I headed to Strongsville on a Sunday morning after some snow had fallen.
(Yes, I know you can still go tobogganing without snow, but for some reason I really wanted there to be some snow on the ground when we went!)
What ensued was a really, really fun couple of hours. I can’t believe I’d never done this before!
Tobogganing in Cleveland
So what is a visit to the Strongsville toboggan chutes really like?
You’ll see the 70-foot high tobogganing hill as you pull into the Chalet from the Valley Parkway. After you park your car, head to the ticket booth on the outside of the Chalet to purchase your ski-lift-style ticket that you’ll need to affix to your jacket.
A single ride at the toboggan chutes is $6, while an all-day pass is $12 for adults and $10 for kids. (I definitely recommend the all-day pass, as one ride won’t be enough!)
Once you confirm that you have a pair of gloves with you (gloves are the ONLY requirement for tobogganing), you can head to the stairs and climb to the top of the chutes.
Years ago, you had to carry your own toboggan to the top of the chutes. Today, the toboggans are brought up on an automatic lift, and you only need to carry yourself up the 108 steps.
At the top, you’ll load yourself and a friend or two onto a toboggan. The toboggans at the Strongsville toboggan chutes can hold up to 4 people apiece. There aren’t any weight requirements, but children do have to be at least 42 inches to ride.
Chalet staff are on hand to help load you into your toboggan (there are special ways to stack legs and hold the ropes – it’s entertaining to watch larger groups being loaded), and then to release you down the chute.
Going down the toboggan chute is like going down a 70-foot-tall roller coaster hill – complete with that stomach-dropping sensation! I personally love roller coasters, and couldn’t help screaming with laughter as we went down the hill.
Top toboggan speeds depend on chute conditions and how many people are on a toboggan, but the average speed is around 40 miles per hour!
We rode the toboggans three times, stopping to warm up by the Chalet’s outdoor fireplace in between runs.
You can also go inside the Chalet to warm up, or to buy snacks and drinks. There are tables on the ground floor of the Chalet, as well as a few more upstairs that have a good view of the toboggan chutes. If you come with someone who doesn’t want to ride, this is a nice warm place where they could hang out to watch.
Tips for a fun day of tobogganing
To ensure that you have the best time possible at the toboggan chutes, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t forget the gloves! You’re required to wear gloves or mittens to ride a toboggan – and fingerless gloves don’t count.
- Go early. The toboggan chutes are open from just after Thanksgiving to early March, mostly on weekends. If you’re going on a weekend (and especially a weekend with decent weather), I recommend going as close to opening as you can. We arrived around 12:30 on a Sunday (when they opened at noon), and had the chutes more or less to ourselves for more than an hour. By 2 p.m., though, there was about a half hour wait to get on a toboggan.
- Take your hat off. With speeds that can approach 50mph, people lose their hats all the time as they fly down the toboggan chutes. I recommend taking yours off before you ride.
- No filming allowed. I also learned that you’re sadly not allowed to wear a GoPro while riding the toboggans. This isn’t stated on the Metroparks site or on any signage at the Chalet, but the chute staff won’t let you ride with a camera, even if you aren’t holding it.
Tobogganing essential info
Where: The Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation, 16200 Valley Parkway Strongsville, OH 44136
When: The toboggan chutes open the weekend after Thanksgiving, and stay open usually through early March. In 2019, opening day is Friday, November 29 from noon to 10:30 p.m. They’re regularly open Fridays from 6-10:30 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 10:30 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. They also have extra hours around the holidays; check the Cleveland Metroparks site for more info.
How much: Single rides are $6; all-day passes are $12 for adults and $10 for kids. They also offer season passes for those who will visit multiple times throughout the season.
Have you been tobogganing in Strongsville? If not, is it something you plan to try this winter?
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