This is the start of sledding season in Los Angeles—at the beach! So get ready to grab a sled and hit the sand.
Sledding may involve getting cold and wet in other parts of the country, but that is so ... un-Californian. Sure, there are places near Los Angeles to go sledding on snow if that's your thing, but we're raising California kids, and that means beach sledding. Every winter a few Los Angeles area beaches get their annual sand berms, intended as protection against winter storms and violent surf. Or so they say. The real purpose is clearly to lay the groundwork for the ultimate SoCal winter sport: sand sledding. We've got the lowdown on when those
sledding hills storm berms are going up.
For actual winter day trips from Los Angeles where you can find snow in SoCal for sledding, skiing, or snow tubing, visit our Winter Activities Guide for Los Angeles Kids.
The most well-known slopes for beach sledding are the Venice Beach sand berms, which get piled up at the end of Venice Boulevard, near the lifeguard station. The bulldozers start their work each year erecting the big sand slopes at Dockweiler State Beach to the south and Zuma Beach to the north, working inward toward Venice at a bulldozer's pace until a solid storm wall has been achieved. When they finish their work, sledding season is at hand—usually by the third week of November at the latest.
Sledding the big berms at Venice Beach. Photo by Mommy Poppins
The ideal sled type for use on the sand is the cheapest, smoothest saucer you can find—typically $15 or less at stores like Big 5 or Target—but a solid boogie board with a smooth plastic bottom can do the trick as well. Heck, even your biggest Amazon box, broken down flat, works wonders. The berms may not look very high from behind, but the water side is steeper, and the height is actually just perfect for repeating the ride over and over without getting sick of climbing up the sand hill. The very smallest kids up through to adults can easily enjoy an hour or more sledding these berms.
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Sometimes you need a good push to get started. Siblings are good for that. Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
The most sleddable sand hills are generally in Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, and at the south end of Dockweiler State Beach. Berms are often erected in a few other communities as well, including Manhattan Beach. All of these are comparable in size and stature. Lest you feel any concern for local marine life and other sled-less critters, rest assured that the city has marine biologists on hand for the putting up and taking down of these hills. Crews are required to defer to the activities of the snowy plover and the running of the grunion in timing each year's berm season.
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All the thrills, none of the chills! Photo by Daniel Schwen - CC BY-SA 3.0
If your kids are looking for something more adventurous, there is a year-round sand slope in Point Mugu State Park, on the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway, just north of Sycamore Canyon. This slope is seriously high and steep—of the climb-it-once-and-collapse-in-a-heap variety. It's better suited for older kids, since it leads to some pretty high speeds, but worth the 45-minute drive for real thrill-seekers.
For most kids, though, several trips down the Venice Beach berms is perfect entertainment for a winter's day, with all the fun of that other kind of sledding but without the special clothes or frozen toes. And unlike snow sledding, this winter sport includes the possibility of whale sightings; keep your eyes peeled for migrating gray whales while waiting your turn down the slope!
Originally published 2012, updated annually