You wake up with the bright sun glinting off of fresh snow and envision zooming down a hill with the wind in your hair, ice crystals on your cheeks, exhilaration welling up inside. Grinning from ear to ear, you can't wait to do it again and again.
Downhill Momentum = Speed = Fun
Snow tubing is an inexpensive sport that almost anyone can participate in. It is low-tech, requires minimal skill, and virtually no training is necessary. Snow tubing doesn't require deep snow or a particularly steep slope, although more of both is always more fun.
More than just the innards of tires, the new generation of inflatable snow sleds can accommodate infants, children of all growth stages, and adults. A variety of ski tubes and blow up snow sleds are available for single or multiple riders of every adventure set. You might even employ the family dog, rigged with a special pulling harness, to tote the little ones around. Some blow up snow sleds can be pulled behind snowmobiles, although caution is advised.
A good tubing hill will have a long, wide open run that fans out at the bottom. Snow tubes are not known for their maneuverability and control. You can expect to spin and bounce with every bump on the slope. If the snow is not very deep, try to pick a hill without too many small obstacles. Always avoid hills with large obstacles.
Your slope should be steep enough for the ski tubes to gather momentum for the ride, but not so steep it sends you careening into danger after a few runs. Be aware that a specific track might soon widen into "all of outdoors", so be sure there is time and space to get out of the way of other tubers. Keep in mind that the more packed the snow, the faster you will go. The faster you go, the more stopping space you will need.
Where To Go
When searching for the perfect place to take your kids snow tubing, there are several factors to consider. If you are planning to stick to hills close to home, check community websites for information on where to go. Some city parks are open to sledding activities. Ask around town to find the local favorites. Make sure that it is safe and legal to snow tube wherever you go.
If you want to make a vacation of snow tubing, many ski resorts have runs set aside for just that purpose. There are websites that can guide you to areas that cater to snow tubing enthusiasts, especially those with kids, in places such as:
-Traverse City, MI
-Stone Mountain, GA
-Lake Tahoe, CA
There may be age or height limits at some resorts, so be sure to ask about restrictions before you go.
Common Sense and Safety
Kids of all ages are easily distracted by fun. They readily forget the numbness of fingers and toes when it's their turn to whiz down the hill. They aren't concerned about stopping. Fluffy snow is a soft landing, but the hard packed run that fuels your adrenaline can make for an icy crash.
-Staying warm and dry is the first rule of any outdoor winter activity. Make sure you are protected from the cold and wet before you get started.
-Winter sun on the snow is blinding and will burn. Wear eye protection and sunscreen
-Wear your helmet. Tubing is moving, sometimes quickly and erratically. Better to be safe than sorry.
-Only ride one passenger at a time unless the snow tube is designed for more. Never overload the tube
-Take turns and get out of the way when it isn't yours.
Proper planning, attention to conditions, and following a few winter guidelines can be the keys to making memories of a lifetime.