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Want a fun outdoor winter activity the whole family will enjoy? Snow tubing is the easiest way to get out on the slopes and earn your hot chocolate. There’s no expensive ski equipment to rent, borrow or buy, and the learning curve is not steep. You only need a few simple tips to keep warm and stay safe.
I learned that I can’t keep up with my kids on winter ski vacations. Why? They ski and snowboard with reckless abandon. I don’t. I learned to ski when I was old. Forty, to be exact. And now I’m fairly terrified that I’ll blow out my knee if I take a tumble.
While I am pretty good at apres ski, generally we don’t spend too much time together on winter family vacations.
Unless…we go snow tubing!
It’s a super way to have winter family fun outdoors and it’s an excellent activity for all abilities and ages, especially if you’re taking toddlers AND teens. Tubing rates vary, depending on which snow tubing hill you’re visiting. Some resorts offer season passes for diehard tubers.
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Essential Tips for Snow Tubing
There are definitely things you need to know before you go and your tubing destination’s website is the place to go. Check the tubing regulations and facilities carefully. For example, if you’re going with little ones (under 42″), you’ll want a park with designated tubing lanes for them or one that permits lap riders.
Sign up for email alerts to learn about special offers on tubing rates. Pay attention to the weather conditions on the website. The snow conditions for tubing are relatively immaterial since snow tubing’s not an Olympic sport…yet. Most resorts have dedicated snowmaking operations for the tubing runs. However, you’ll want to receive snow alerts to be aware of weather conditions that might impact your drive home. And, should Covid regulations change, the website’s where you’ll get the deets.
Ready to tube? Here are the seven top snow tubing tips you’ll need to know.
1. What Do You Wear for Snow Tubing?
The secret to all outdoor winter sports, whether you’re skiing, tubing or ice skating, is wearing the right clothing. Remember…there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. For snow tubing, that means wearing long underwear, warm socks and waterproof outerwear and boots. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses or goggles.
Although this may sound as if you’ll have trouble moving, like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story,” you should be fine if you wear several thin layers rather than one bulky, comforter-like coat.
You’ll also want to cover up your hands with mittens or gloves. I asked Clinton Frantz, Director of Mountain Activities at Camelback Resort, if he recommends one option over another. “Both will work for snow tubing. As long as the gloves are comfortable, stay on and keep your hands warm – that’s what matters most,” he says.
The good thing about snow tubing attire? You don’t need to clunk around in rigid ski boots like Frankenstein!
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Read More: Another Fun Winter Sport Everyone Can Do: Snowshoeing with Kids
2. Choose Day Sessions at the Snow Tubing Park
For families with young children, it’s advisable to go during the day rather than trying to tube at night.
Let’s face it. All kids in snowsuits look alike. It’s much easier to keep track of yours in the light of day at a busy ski area, like Colorado’s Breckenridge or Beaver Creek. The crowds also get older and rowdier after dark.
The snow tubing park’s website is the best place to check the hours of operation.
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3. Keep Your Snow Tube Expectations Reasonable
Tubing sessions are usually sold in 2-hour blocks. You’ll be tempted to get your money’s worth. But your little ones, especially toddlers, might get pooped after only 2 or 3 runs. Tears are no fun at the snow tubing park. Especially in the cold. You’re also more likely to have an accident if you get tired.
My suggestion? Book a late morning tubing session. Take a few runs with the little ones and, if you have older kids, turn them loose. If your little guy/gal loves it, go up and down the tubing lanes again and again. But if he or she starts whining, head inside for a hot chocolate and mini marshmallows.
Mini marshmallows are the best.
What if your little one is afraid to try snow tubing? It wasn’t a problem for me when I took the kids for the first time. But I’ve definitely seen hesitant tubers. Frantz suggests having scared children ride with other family members to make them more comfortable while snow tubing. “At Camelback, we have double tubes or we can link single tubes together.”
4. Snow Tubing with Toddlers? Find a Tube Park with a Magic Carpet Lift
One way to make a day tubing more fun for everyone is to choose the right tube park for your family. And the right one, according to SheBuysTravel contributor Andrea Traynor has an essential piece of equipment. “My only tip is that if your kids are too little to carry their own snow tubes up the hill over and over (and over and over), then look for places that have a magic carpet to take you, your kid and your tube(s) back up the hill.” Andrea is Canadian; she knows snow.
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5. Designate a Meeting Area Near the Tubing Lanes
If you’re taking toddlers and teens snow tubing, the older kids will try to run away from you the minute you park the car.
Before anyone sets off, pick a prominent meeting place in the tubing area and set a time. Don’t rely on calling the kids when you want to leave. I find that cell service is spotty at ski resorts. But clocks (remember those?) are usually mounted in a number of locations.
Give your older kids a 15-minute grace window before panicking if they’re late. Sometimes they’ll feel the need to squeeze in just one more run before quitting for the day, especially if they’re snowboarding with friends while you’re tubing with the littles.
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6. Bring a Change of Clothes for After Tubing
There’s nothing better than flushed cheeks and the feeling of happy exhaustion after a day on the mountain. What’s not so fun is riding home in sweat-soaked clothes. A dry tuber is a happy tuber, and I’m not talking about potatoes!
Bring a fresh change of clothes for the kiddos – especially clean socks. Riding home in a minivan that smells like Eau de Gym Locker is not pleasant. Ask me how I know this.
7. Make Advance Reservations for Snow Tubing
It’s essential to make advance reservations for your tubing adventure or your winter family vacation fun might end before it even begins. Snow tubing is really popular and snow tubing tickets sell out, especially on weekends and school holidays.
And, even with a reservation, you’ll want to check in for your tubing session early, says SheBuysTravel contributor Diana Rowe. During a visit to Colorado’s Keystone Resort, she and her multigenerational tubing group arrived for their session on the dot, but did not realize there was an orientation required. They lost 15 minutes of precious tubing time. You’ll also need to fill out paperwork, including waivers. If you can do that in advance online, do it.
Read More: Copper Mountain: Colorado’s Family-Friendliest Resort
Safety First When Snow Tubing
Protecting your kids from head trauma is a serious subject for parents. And the question will come up when you go snow tubing. At most winter ski areas, the helmet decision will be yours to make, although they are mandatory at some parks for riders. Helmets are generally available to rent if you don’t own them.
Information about snow sport safety for kids is available at Lids on Kids. I did not make my kids wear helmets when they were little, but the dangers of head trauma were not well publicized then.
It’s also important to use proper form when snow tubing. “Guests can either sit or lay on the tube holding onto the handles. Young children should not sit at the bottom of the tube or with their feet inside the tube,” according to Camelback’s Frantz.
He also notes that the most important safety advice is to dress warmly with the proper footwear. “Any sort of snow tubing experience requires walking through snow.”
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