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Over the hill and loving it

NOW's intrepid reporters risk life, limb while rating North Shore sledding runs

Jan. 6, 2010

For those of you who don't recognize the names above, don't worry, Mary Buckley is still your go-to-source for North Shore news.

But due to a scheduling quirk - and our self-proclaimed expertise - our editors decided to move us from our normal posts in Brookfield and Wauwatosa for a day to complete a special assignment: rating the sledding hills across the North Shore.

We did a similar story in Brookfield last year, and it ran to great acclaim (mostly from both our mothers). So, using our tried-and-true five-sled rating system (patent pending), we trudged around the North Shore on a chilly December afternoon - and the next morning - to tackle the snow- and ice-covered peaks of Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we found that the North Shore has a lot to offer sledders, tubers and tobogganers, from man-made slopes to natural, ski-hill-sized runs.

Here's a look at how the hills stack up.

Editor's note: Alan and Isral are two 20-something reporters who never really grew up.

RATINGS

One sled = Perfect for little kids

Two sleds = Still not too scary

Three sleds = A little steeper, but still family-friendly; you can get some speed and get longer runs

Four sleds = You're moving pretty quickly and even hitting a jump or two

Five sleds = Evel Knievel would have loved this one

SLEDDING HILLS

Brown Deer Park

ADDRESS: 7835 N. Green Bay Road

WHERE'S THE HILL: Along Range Line Road, south of the main entrance to the park.

PARKING: There is no street parking near the hill; there are parking lots in Brown Deer Park, but that means hoofing it to the hill.

RESTROOMS: None

ALAN'S TAKE: While it's a bit of a trek to get to the hill, it's pretty nice once you're actually there. There was some fresh snow on the ground when we showed up, so we were able to get some pretty good runs in. The hill actually has a couple levels, so if you get a head of steam, you can go pretty far. There were a couple jumps crafted, but nothing too treacherous.

ISRAL'S TAKE: The lack of restrooms and convenient parking make this hill less friendly to sledders who don't live in the immediate area. Nevertheless, Brown Deer offers a nice, fun hill for all ages. The hill alternates between steeper spots and plateaus for a terraced effect that makes the ride longer and more interesting. The top of the hill is near Range Line Road, so parents may wish to warn smaller children to keep away from the street.

RATING: 3 sleds

Bayside Village Hall

ADDRESS: 9075 N. Regent Road

WHERE'S THE HILL: just north of Village Hall

PARKING: Yes; there is a parking lot south of the municipal building

RESTROOMS: Yes, when Village Hall is open

ALAN'S TAKE: I was a little worried when we pulled up and all I saw was dirt on the south side of the new, manmade sledding hill outside Village Hall. But while snow cover was scant, there was still enough for us to make a couple runs. Bayside's hill would be loads of fun with a lot of snow, and there are plenty of different grades to choose from, depending on whether you're a daredevil or just a little kid looking for a fun sledding experience.

ISRAL'S TAKE: While this hill has two sled-able sides (a third side facing the village recycling center is off limits), the snow melts more quickly on the south face. That's a shame, since that's the steeper part of the hill, and it looked like fun. If thoroughly covered in snow, this new hill at Village Hall would be a blast for all ages. Either way, leave the snow tubes at home, because the hill's surface is a bit abrasive.

RATING: 3 sleds

Mee-Kwon Park

ADDRESS: 6333 W. Bonniwell Road, Mequon

WHERE'S THE HILL: Drive south from the entrance to the park and the hill will be on your right; it's tough to miss

PARKING: Yes. And plenty of it.

RESTROOMS: Portable toilets on site.

ALAN'S TAKE: Now this looks like a professional hill. It's huge and offers plenty of space for sledders, tubers, snowboarders and the like. It's a bit of a hike to get to the top of the hill, but once you're up there, it's a long way down, and you can get moving pretty quickly (like I did - backwards - on my plastic saucer). When we were there, the very bottom of the hill was pretty icy, which made for a bumpy finish.

ISRAL'S TAKE: Plenty of parking is available right at the foot of Mee-Kwon Park's long, wide sledding hill. There's enough space here to accommodate even a school snow day's worth of sledders. Mee-Kwon has a gentle grade but it's also quite long, making it a great spot for a classic toboggan or runner sled, depending on the snow conditions. This hill is farther north than other North Shore hills, but it's worth the drive.

RATING: 4 sleds

Kletzsch Park

ADDRESS: 6561 N. Milwaukee River Parkway, Glendale

WHERE'S THE HILL: From Green Bay Road, go east on the park's main entrance road until you hit Milwaukee River Parkway. Then head north, and the hill will be a short distance up on the west side of the street.

PARKING: On-street only

RESTROOMS: There are portable toilets outside a pavilion a short distance away.

ALAN'S TAKE: This hill looks like it would offer some good variety if it were snow covered, but only a steep, icy run was open when we were there, making things downright treacherous, at least for old folks like us. There are trees and bushes aplenty to hit on the side and bottom of the hill, and almost every sledder we saw - other than those who bailed out before they hit the bottom - plowed through the bushes. Again, it's a large hill, but there was hardly any snow there, so the gentler slopes were not passable. Unless there's plenty of snow, younger kids (and even older ones) should tackle this hill at their own risk.

ISRAL'S TAKE: This hill offered two extremes: a precipitous, ice-covered chute that fires sledders into mangled trees and bushes and a gentler, grassy slope with a generous amount of slow-down space at the bottom. Unfortunately for more conservative sledders, the less intense (and safer) option requires a decent amount of snow. The faster run offered plenty of excitement, but the trees and bushes lining the hill's south side and bottom - with no fencing or hay bales to protect sledders - made it dangerous enough that we saw one young sledder wearing a helmet!

RATING: 5 sleds

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