Thrill seekers flock to Ohio’s only public toboggan chutes

By Chris M. Worrell - (TNS)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually all activities, thrill seekers can still get a full shot of adrenaline — in a safe, outdoor setting — at Ohio’s only public toboggan chutes.

The twin, 700-foot-long refrigerated chutes — located at The Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation, 16200 Valley Parkway in Strongsville — require no snow and can operate up to around 50 degrees.

The icy ride, a Greater Cleveland rite of passage since 1967, is not for the faint of heart. Intrepid guests can reach speeds up to 50 mph while plummeting 70 feet. Nonetheless, repeat visitors are common.

“We get families that come back year after year,” comments Amy McRitchie, manager of the facility. “They make it their annual pilgrimage.”

According to McRitchie, three generations from the same family sometimes turn out for the day, all having experienced the thrill ride as children. Folks who prefer to watch, rather than join in the action, can do so at no cost.

In a typical season, around 20,000 brave souls take to the hill. Last year, opening weekend alone drew more than 2,000.

McRitchie says the guests are frequently from far beyond Ohio. “We get so many guests from Florida or other states that don’t have snow.”

Area first-timers are not completely out of the ordinary, either. Notes McRitchie, “As long as we’ve been around, I still get people who didn’t know it existed.”

As with most winter sports, pleasant but seasonable conditions tend to draw more guests.

“We are always busier when it’s around 35 degrees, sunny and with snow on the ground,” reveals McRitchie.

Due to the pandemic, the interior of The Chalet will not be open in 2020. Concessions will be available through a “to-go” window. Restrooms are available at a stand-alone facility adjacent The Chalet. A blazing fire will be available to warm chilly patrons, though seating will be spread out across the grounds.

Facial coverings are required and only household members can share a sled, with a four-person maximum. Riders must be at least 42 inches tall and wear gloves or mittens that cover fingertips. In addition, guests are expected to follow all toboggan instructions to ensure a safe experience.

Reservations are required throughout the current season and are available online or by calling 440-572-9990. The same number features weather and operational updates.

A day pass for adults is $12. Children 11 and younger gain daily entry for $10. Single rides are available for $6. One-ride tickets can be upgraded to a day pass by paying the difference. Cash, check and most major credit cards are accepted.

Group rates and private rentals are available, though interested parties should inquire well in advance.

Although the toboggan chutes are weather dependent, the season typically lasts from the day after Thanksgiving until the first weekend in March. Friday hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Saturdays run noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday times are noon to 5 p.m.

Daily from Dec. 21 to Jan. 2 — the heart of the holidays and winter break for most students — hours last from noon to 9 p.m., with several exceptions. On Christmas Eve, the chutes will open at noon and close at 4 p.m., then remain closed Christmas Day. New Year’s Eve hours are noon to 5 p.m.

The chutes are also open Jan. 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and Feb. 15 (Presidents Day), from noon to 5 p.m.

By Chris M. Worrell (TNS)

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