Leland Snow Play is a snow park for tubing in Strawberry, CA, in the Sonora Pass region. It's open on weekends as of this writing, and daily from December 20, 2018 to January 15, 2019.
Located about 175 miles, mostly east, from the Berkeley area, rental houses are abundant in Twain Harte, a mountain town about 25 minutes from the snow park, and early planners may have luck securing lodging even closer, either in Pinecrest or Strawberry.
At Leland Snow Play, guests pay for a ticket which enables them to use tubes for riding down a man-made hill as many times as they like. You can choose to pay for all-day access to the park or a two-hour ticket.
A mechanical tow takes you up the hill while you sit on your tube, like a moving sidewalk. (No lap-sitting on the tow allowed, and children must be 44″ to ride the tow.) At age 5, my (petite) daughter was not quite tall enough, but we bought her the tow ticket anyway because I got the feeling that the ticket salesperson was encouraging me to exaggerate her height. Generally, kids under 44″: are limited to a smaller magic carpet area.
A “walk-up” ticket is cheaper and allows you to ride down the hill without access to the tow, walking by foot. We found it more efficient to hike up the hill, but the tow is fun as well, so we accessed the top of the sledding lanes both ways.
Once at the top, parents and children may not share a tube ride, but can attach themselves to one another for a tandem ride by having the child, sitting in her own tube, hook her arms around her parent's feet.
Our 5-year old stuck with us, but our 8-year old and his third-grade buddy were able to navigate the park themselves and we let them stray from us, giving ourselves a pat on the back for free-range parenting.
There are lines to stand in, but they didn't last long enough to detract from our good times. Staff members are manning the flow of tube traffic to ensure safety.
Easy access sledding lanes for toddlers and preschoolers are centrally located in front of the snack bar/lodge. At the time of our visit, there wasn't a ton of snow, and those rides were not stimulating enough for our group. A child of two- or three-years old will certainly enjoy the “baby hill.”
The big hill is about eight lanes of tubing and provides a serious thrill, even for adults. It was a fun way to spend two hours, and I'm not sure anyone would need a full day pass unless there were more snow and more general snow play fun to be had.
While finding a natural sledding hill off the side of the road may be more appealing to lovers of the great outdoors, Leland Snow Play is a good choice for days when the supply of snow is light.
The nearby ski resort is Dodge Ridge, a great place for kids to learn. We enjoyed their ski school recently, and Oakland mom Tamar Cohen reviewed Dodge Ridge for us a couple of years ago. (Read that post here.)