Here in Missouri, you can never be sure what kind of weather the winter will bring. You may consult the Old Farmer’s Almanac or even split persimmons looking for insight into the average conditions in a given year. Winter here is capable of producing polar vortex style freezes that last for a week as well as 75 degree days in January where the wind whips in a fury from the south. Sometimes we get both, one right after the other. Although snows and freezes in Missouri aren’t quite as consistent as the ones our northern neighbors are used to, we still know how to take advantage of winter weather.

That may mean ice skating, hitting the slopes in Weston or Wildwood, or just celebrating a good excuse to sit inside under warm blankets and stay home. This January, we’re shining the spotlight on what could fairly be considered the most democratic of winter activities—sledding. It’s an all-ages activity. It requires no special training or fees for lift passes, just a snowy day and, in theory, a sled. If you don’t happen to have one, they aren’t terribly expensive thanks to the modern magic of plastic molding. If you want to show off your vintage style, you can’t go wrong with a classic toboggan or steel runner sled, but in the right conditions, you can also just cut a few holes in a large trash bag and heave yourself down the side of a hill.

If you happen to be reading this on a snowy day, don your scarf, cap, and gloves and head to the nearest hill with a nice, steep grade. Even if you aren’t feeling particularly brave, there’s always good people-watching to be had at the local sledding hill. If the weather is unseasonably warm or simply hovering somewhere between snow and rain, as it often is during a Missouri winter, here is some visual inspiration for your next downhill outing.

Art Hill, St. Louis

Sledding Art Hill is a tradition that goes back at least 115 years. After the World’s Fair ended, a snow storm hit St. Louis. Some of the employees working at the World’s Fair offices decided to take advantage of the accumulation, grabbing folding chairs among other flat objects and sliding down the hill. The rest is history, as St. Louisans make their way to Forest Park to slide down the slopes any time a good snow falls.

Stephen’s Lake Park, Columbia

In Columbia, there are few sledding hills finer than the one just off the bank of Stephen’s Lake, thanks to its central location and steep angle. Although the park is a popular swimming destination and plays hosts to festivals like Roots N Blues (and for the first time ever this year, the True/False Film Fest), snowfall turns the park into a winter lover’s paradise.

Rotary Park, Kirksville

Up north where the snowfall is a little more reliable each winter, Kirksville locals can be spotted in Rotary Park on East Mill Street. This is one of the few parks to have a designated sledding area, which is maintained for safety and enjoyment of all who come here for winter sport. The park was formerly called Swimming Pool Park and was adopted by the Rotary Club of Kirksville then renamed.

Brookside Park, Kansas City

Brookside Hill in Kansas City is considered by many the premier sledding destination for denizens of The Paris of the Plains. After a good accumulation, you’ll find kids and young-at-heart adults experiencing downhill thrills here.

For years, locals have also referred to the hill as Suicide Hill, probably a reference to the height and grade of the hill, but after an eleven-year-old local lost his father to suicide, he began a campaign with help from his mother to stop referring to the hill by its former moniker.

Doling Park, Springfield

Doling Park in Springfield is a fifty-six-acre park that features multiple hills for sledders, making it a popular destination when winter weather hits. The hills vary in terms of grade and tend to be dotted with trees, meaning sledding enthusiasts should use caution and good judgment when out for a ride. The 130-year-old park also features a museum and a family center with an indoor pool and gym.

Photos // The Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Jim Rhodes (FLICKR), Dylan Crane Photography, Danielle Brown/Kirksville Daily Express, Dmitry Gimon, Springfield-Greene County Park Board