A Guide for the First-Time Snow Tubing
Right about the time snow tubing started getting really big, I decided I wanted to give it a try -- but the only inflatable snow tubes I could find (in Alaska, go figure) were kid-size. That's okay, nothing deters a determined Alaskan when there is snow fun to be had! So I called around and found an old tractor tire inner tube that I could have for free.
That thing was huge -- the perfect stand-in as a snow float, right? Except for one little detail: I never did get it out on the snow because I couldn't figure out how to remove the foot-long air valve that poked through the center of the tire tube; there was no safe way to avoid it.
The good news is that adult-size one and two person snow tubes for sale are a lot easier to find nowadays. Here's what you should know before you hit the slopes for the first time:
What to wear
Just like any other sledding outing, dress in warm, non-cotton layers and don't forget the snowpants! If you're tubing at a ski hill there will be a rope tow, magic carpet or something similar to get you back up the hill -- so you don't have to worry about sweating on the way up.
If you're doing it yourself and have to walk your own tube uphill, wear layers you can easily unzip or take off so you don't overheat on the trek uphill. Stick a length of cordage in your pocket and you can use it as a makeshift leash for hauling the tube uphill.
Last but not least: If you're really getting extreme with your tubing or out in icy conditions, helmets are a good idea; some tubing hills require them for children under a given age. (They usually provide the helmets.)
Watch those turns
Riding up onto the wall of a banked turn is the best thing ever about groomed tubing parks -- but it's easier than you might think to get flung all the way up that wall and over the far side. Smart tubing parks will either build the "wall" of the turn extra high or put safety netting on top of it, or both -- but it never hurts to watch other tubers of about the same weight take their runs and see how far up the wall they go. If in doubt, keep it slow on the first run and work up to higher speeds later on.
Snow tubes have no brakes and they're inherently hard to control -- that's part of the fun! But it also means that once you get up to speed, any attempts to steer by dragging your hands and feet can send you into a spin to make the actors of Top Gun jealous. (If you start braking right from the start you can keep yourself slow to a certain degree; but if you miss that slim window of opportunity, even the attempt to brake can be dangerous.)
How much to pay
As a general rule you can expect to pay $20 to $30 for a two-hour tubing session at a ski resort. If you're doing it yourself, all you have to do is buy the tube and a good shovel to help you carve a run into deep snow; kid's tubes start at around $20.
How to layer up:
Keeping your hands, feet and head warm:
Article written by Lisa Maloney
Lisa Maloney is the Hiking Expert at About.com