Would you believe that snow tubing is rumored to date as far back as the 1820s to the Alpine Mountains? They’re believed to have started as a means to transport materials and people across large swaths of territory, then evolving to more entertaining ways of playing in the snow by riding them downhill.
Of course, the gear that we use for snow tubing now has evolved but the sport itself remains true to its simple roots: ride an inflatable tube, on the snow, down a hill. While similar to sledding, there are a few key differences. First, you have a softer surface to sit on and ride than you do with traditional sleds. While on the slope, gravity calls you down the hill to the bottom, and because of the low friction between the snow and the rubber tubes, you can speed down the hill at much faster speeds. You also have limited steering capabilities, which can be fun, but also means there are some precautions you’ll want to take.
What to Be Cautious of when Tubing
With most snow tubes, you have little control over the direction or the speed of your tube (with one exception: our Descender!). With a sled, you can drag your arms in the snow, and this will help you brake. If you do this with a tube, however, you may spin, and at higher speeds, this could potentially lead to injury. Your best bet with a tube is to hop or roll off when the going gets too rough.
It’s also smart to avoid big jumps on traditional (round) snow tubes. While tempting, you have no control over the tube, and it might lead to a serious crash.
And always, always, always...wear a helmet.
How Snow Tubes Have Evolved
Today’s snow tubes have been specifically designed for us in snow (as opposed to on top of water like traditional towable tubes). The materials are made to last in colder temperatures, and to glide easily across well packed snow.
Many snow tubes have a donut hole or dimpled center with a floor, to stop the rider from dragging on the snow. Many have also been designed with rugged handles, which wasn't found in the first tubes back in the 1800s.
Snow Day = Snow Tubing Day!
You might never believe it, but back as far as the late 1800s, tubing has been seen as a fun getaway. In fact, Canada's Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden even let his Members of Parliament take the day off to slide across Parliament Hill because of a massive snowstorm in Ottawa. That's not the normal image you'd imagine of classy politicians taking the day off to go snow tubing, but the 1800s were a different time period.
Over the next century, snow tubing picked up steam as backyard entertainment, and it often became a popular choice only seconded to traditional toboggan sledding. You didn't hear much about snow tubing in the commercial world until the late 1990s. At this time, the mainstream ski resorts saw the potential in this thrilling activity, and they brought snow tubing to the big mountains. It swept across the skiing industry, and you saw a lot of skiing resorts offering people the chance to take on hills distinctly intended for snow tubing.
Snow Tubing Popularity Escalates
In 2010, snow tubing picked up enough popularity that pro tubers were even considered for entering the Olympics. While it did not quite make it to the Olympics, the popularity hit a new peak in 2014. At the base of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Ski Hill, one of the only tubing parks in Columbia Valley arose, and the rubber tube became firmly planted in the book of history. More and more non-skiers are looking for a way to enjoy the ski resorts. Ski resorts are now offering entertainment to this crowd through tubing parks.
Why Tubing Has Continued to Grow in Popularity Since the 1800s
The reason people have taken a liking to inflatable sleds is the easy accessibility. The gear is easy to carry and use, and there’s little-to-no special skill set required to ride them.
When the snow has freshly fallen, inflatable sleds have the advantage over their toboggan counter-parts because they cover a greater surface area, and they will float over the top of the snow for a smoother ride.
Snow tubes have come a long way in the nearly two centuries that they’ve been around. Check out our selection of snow tubes to find one that’s right for you.