Careening down a frozen slick lane in an inflatable tube is an exhilarating winter experience. It’s no surprise then that it’s also a popular one, especially since it’s more affordable than skiing, accessible to practically any age or skill level and doesn’t require much in the way of fancy equipment. This season, with Covid protocols in place including reduced capacity and timed sessions, snow tubing is a hotter ticket than ever. If you’ve never tried it you might not know what to expect. Kenny Hess, director of sports and risk management at Massanutten Resort, shares some tips and advice for first-timers.
Especially this year, don’t expect to snag get same-day or even same-week tickets. At Massanutten, tubing is running at 50% capacity and is sold out around 10 days in advance; resort guests are able to purchase passes 21 days before, while resort owners can buy them 30 days out. If your schedule is flexible consider weekdays, which are a little easier to get. (Check websites to confirm hours of operation though, as some resorts only have tubing on weekends.) Either way, most places are requiring online purchasing of tickets rather than in-person; double-check to avoid disappointment.
Wear the proper attire to be comfortable spending a few hours outside
Think back to your days of sledding as a kid, Hess says. Dress in layers with water-repellent clothing on the outside, consider hand and foot warmers and obviously warm gloves and a hat. If your tubing session is at night it will obviously be chillier.
Choose the right mask
Hess points out that the cotton ones tend to get damp from the cold air and condensation of breathing through them, so disposable or lycra/spandex pens might be more comfortable. He suggests each guest bring an extra one so you can swap it out mid-session if need be.
Be mindful of the needs of small kids
Parks have a minimum height (and sometimes age) requirement for kids; at Massanutten that requirement is 36-inches, no matter the age. Every rider must have a tube (and you can’t bring your own), so this means smaller kids who don’t meet the requirement can’t just ride in a parent’s tube. A moving walkway with a non-slip rubberized surface usually takes riders to the top of the run, and once you arrive kids can drag their tubes to the back of the line. However at the bottom they must lift it and carry it to the conveyor belt–this can be frustrating and heavy for younger kids, so parents may need to assist them.
Conditions can change the tubing experience
Depending on the weather, staff at Massanutten make the call as to whether or not to allow members of a family or friend group to tether their tubes together or require them to go down separately; the slicker the surface the fewer people are allowed to ride together, since doing so picks up a lot of speed. At the bottom of the runs, additional rubber mats are placed to slow down riders. Be prepared to be flexible, and remind kids (and nervous riders) that they might have to go it alone.
“You’re outside, you’re not cramped in a car and you are out enjoying the fresh air,” Hess says. “Anyone can do it–it’s 90 minutes of pure fun!”
Here is where to go snow tubing this winter. Wheeeee!
The popular Virginia resort two hours west of Northern Virginia offers 90-minute sessions at its tubing park (pictured above), which has 16 lanes that are 900 feet in length with a drop of 120 vertical feet, and two moving walkway-style conveyor lifts to take you back to the top. At night the park glows with neon lights and pumps out energetic music for its Northern Lights Tubing, and guests are encouraged to bring glow sticks to add to the ambiance. Sessions must be booked online in advance and sell out quickly, masks must be worn at all times and participation is limited to guests 36-inches and taller. // $25/Monday to Friday, $32/Saturday and Sunday; 4620 Massanutten Drive, Massanutten
The Plunge is Virginia’s largest tubing park, 10-stories high and longer than three football fields, where riders can hit speeds that top out at 30 mph. Not surprisingly, that means tickets for the 75-minute sessions sell out quickly. Currently tickets are available online only; every Sunday morning around 10 a.m. they are released for the following Thursday through Sunday. They are closed Monday through Wednesday except on holidays. Tubing here is recommended for those age 6 and up, and the minimum height requirement is 42 inches. One person per tube is allowed, though you may hook up tubes depending on conditions. // $24/75-minutes on non-holiday Thursdays, $34/75-minutes on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays; Route 664, Wintergreen
The Coca-Cola Tube Park is a six-story, eight-lane hill with a tow rope to help you back to the top. New is Galactic Tubing at night with LED lights and music and an observation deck with heaters, fire pits and comfortable seating. Two-hour sessions must be booked in advance online; the park is open daily, check the website for times. // $5-$15/depending on age during midweek and value season, $5-$20/depending on age during weekends and holidays. Family passes are also available; 10 Snowshoe Drive, Snowshoe, West Virginia
Those age 5 years and up can hit the up to 15 lanes at Boulder Ridge, with a carpeted conveyor belt to carry you back to the top. The younger set (age 2-4) can have fun at Pebble Ridge, which is designed just for them. Tickets must be purchased online in advance for the two-hour sessions, and Covid protocols include masks and social distancing. The park is open Thursday through Sunday as well as holidays. // $35/ages 5 and up, $9/ages 2 to 4; 78 Country Club Trail, Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania
Two-hour sessions for the 16 tubing lanes are sold in 2-hour sessions online. All riders must be 5 years of age to ride the large runs; a special kiddie tubing run is available for children 2 to 4 years of age. The tubing park is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. // $32/2 hours; 13805 Blairs Valley Road, Mercersberg, Pennsylvania
The Virginia resort is selling a maximum of 40 tickets every half-hour for 90-minute sessions on its three 800-foot tubing lanes to allow for social distancing. Children must be at least 4 years of age and 36-inches tall, and masks are required for anyone over the age of five. You can add on ice skating for an additional $8 per person. // $29/90-minutes; 1982 Fairway Drive, Basye, Virginia
The York, Pennsylvania golf resort offers snow tubing through AvalancheXpress, with several lanes available via a day pass, night pass or season pass and discounted passes for groups of 15 or more. Passes must be booked in advance and an online waiver completed. // $20/Monday through Thursday, $36/Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with discounted passes for kids and after 8 p.m. admission; 2700 Mount Rose Ave., York, Pennsylvania
The classic resort’s Penguin Slides Tubing Park features well-groomed lanes and a conveyor to take guests back to the top. Sessions are one-hour each, reservations are required and you must be five years old and at least 48-inches to ride. // $27/day guests, $22/resort guests; 7969 Sam Snead Highway, Hot Springs
There are 12 tube shoots that are 750-feet long at this Maryland resort, with two Conveyor Carpets to take you back up to the fun. Two-hour sessions must be booked online, and children must be at least 4 years old and 42-inches tall to participate; you can add on a ride to the Mountain Coaster for $9 for a single rider and $14 for a double rider. // $24/2-hours on standard days, $34/2-hours for premium days (check calendar); 296 Marsh Hill Road, McHenry, Maryland
Featuring up to 10 large tubing lanes 800-feet long for ages 5 and older serviced by a covered Magic Carpet lift, this Pennsylvania resort also has a special kiddie tubing area for those 4 and under that’s not serviced by a lift but walkable. The tubing park is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. // $30/2-hours; 925 Roundtop Road, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania
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