Easy casual sledding spots for small kids

Hello!  Existing BPN advice on this is 10+ years old, so thanks in advance for your insight!  

My 3 year old is urgently requesting a trip to play in snow, and we'd like to go!  However, we don't know much about the sledding and casual snow play scene.  What snowy towns are relatively easy to get to, sleep in, and find a place to sled down a small or medium sized hill?  Since we won't be skiing, would rather not pay a big premium to be right near a ski resort.

Also, any suggestions for warm snow gear for small kids?  Please let me know if you have size 2T and/or Kids XS snow boots/ suits/ etc. to lend or sell.   Thanks in advance!

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We have enjoyed taking my niece to the sledding park at Bear Valley (she was 3 years old last season when we went). You can rent tubes or sleds there and it's super easy to walk across the field to the little snow hills. Our kiddo loved it. We took turns pulling her up the hill. Sledding is $15 and tubing is $20/person. Check out bvadventures.com Also, Bear Valley is a much easier drive than Tahoe with almost no traffic getting up there (depending on where you're coming from and what time of day you leave). We stay in Murphys where there is no snow, but people who are skiing or want to be in the snow usually stay up the hill a bit in Arnold which is about a 20 minute drive up to the snow park. There are also several pull off the road snow play/sled areas, you just need to purchase a day parking permit (I believe it's $5 or $10 per car). 

So I'm definitely a bit biased here, but I'd argue that the highway 108 corridor would be a great location. It's outside Tahoe so everything is cheaper and less crowded. The drive is almost always faster than getting to Tahoe (no pass to go over, in snow conditions you don't get the Tahoe multi-hour backlog). There is a formal snow play area (Leland), but a lot of people just drive up 108 until the snow is good and there's a hill. On weekends, there's usually a (not overwhelming) crowd marking the first good hill to snowplay on.

Downsides are it's not Tahoe. So the restaurants and entertainment options are not as good. There are I think two casinos. Sonora is fun to explore and there is even an awesome train museum in Jamestown. You can ride a full size steam train and see the restored trained used in the Back to the Future film.

We just took our 2 year old to Bear Valley. They have a sledding and tubing hill and he LOVED it. It is a little less than 3 hours away and has lodging options in condos and a hotel. Might be worth looking into. I've seen some really reasonably priced snow gear at Decathlon in Emeryville. We borrowed from the couple we went with but I know they also have had some luck finding stuff at the kiddie resale store in Rockridge. 

Serene Lakes has a great sledding hill, and theres tubing at Soda Springs. Look at Donner Summit Rentals for vacation homes, or Clair Tappan Lodge if you want something more rustic.

We got an airbnb rental in Truckee (specifically Tahoe Donner) that was affordable. The backyard was open space (a golf course in the summer) with one large hill and lots of small hills. Truckee also has a "snow park" with sledding, but there's a daily fee. Downtown Truckee is cute with some good restaurants.

Back when my youngest was still a toddler, I did a day trip out as far as the Omega Diggins Trail off highway 20 and there was snow enough for her that time.  For me, I love driving the stretch of highway between Grass Valley and i-80.  I think I had intended to go further but she was satisfied so that was it for us.  I did a similar day trip out to the Tahoe Donner neighborhood back when my eldest was 2, tramped into the Trout Creek meadow area and called it a day after a short while.  My kids were great car nappers.  A week ago, with both kids now 9 and 12 years old, they played outside in the snow with a scouting group for a few hours at Hoyfjellet Lodge near Soda Springs.  The location near the summit had more fresh snow and way less traffic than the bigger resort areas.  Anyways, the kids didn't ask for the snow tubes that we brought.  Sand toys, snow scoops, and these days friends are all they seemed to need on these excursions.  From what I've seen, sledding can still be a bit intimidating for toddlers and it is a bit of work for the parents.  Another beautiful, easy to access, and typically quiet area is the Truckee River trail south of Squaw Valley.  If you examine the satellite images on Google maps, you'll see a turnoff for parking.  Follow the trail until you get a (private) bridge.  On the other side is a picturesque wide open expanse with towering trees.  Tahoe Donner also has a pay-to-play snowplay area that is very little kid friendly and more affordable if you get a guest access card with a short-term rental in that community.  In general, if you get a rental with a really long sloping north-facing driveway, or a yard where you can shape your own toddler run, then that may be plenty for a 3 year old.  For cute warm gently loved gear, you might want to call Dress Best For Less.  Sports Basement rents apparel too.

We just went to Spicer Rd off of hwy 4 about 20 miles from Arnold. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from Oakland. Lots of short hills great for younger ages. My youngest is three. You need to buy a parking pass online for $5 before your go. Also it can be crowded we got there about a 11:30 - people were leaving for lunch. We packed a lunch and spent about 4 hours playing in snow. We went 3/4 days after a big storm. It takes a coupe of days for all of the roads to be plowed so don’t go if there is a big storm (12in) the day before. 

I just went to the snow last weekend. I think toddlers don't last all that long at any given time. You might be fine with going to a snow park. The permit to park is just 5 dollars. We went to the Echo Lake snow park located before you get to South lake Tahoe. There were a few small hills which were fun to try.

If you want to avoid the crowds and traffic try your find places on 88 and highway 4.  There are a number of places on 80 and 50.  Or consider going to Reno, spending the night, and then taking the Mt. Rose highway/431 towards Lake Tahoe for about 15 miles.  There's a wonderful play area.  When finished take 431 towards the Lake and enjoy the incredible views.  They are incredible.  The snow play areas in NV are free.  There's a fee for the ones in Nevada.  If you are into incredible scenery take 88 back to the Bay Area and have some fun in Pioneer or Jackson.