Reporting Jay Lloyd
From barrel staves to barn doors, whenever people, snow and hills are thrown together for an awesome downward plunge, anything that will slide will suffice. Granny still has the Flexible Flyer in the attic. Then there were garbage can lids and plastic Frisbee sleds. Today, snow sliding thrill seekers head for steeper hills to rocket, spin and surf, riding reinforced tubes with rubberized floors – a cross between an inner tube and a river tube. We do it in the nearby Pocono Mountains at resorts once solely reserved for skiers. Here’s where and how to find the world of snow tubing. – Jay Lloyd
WHERE TO GO:
We start the snow tubing quest at JACK FROST MOUNTAIN near White Haven, where I met a spry woman of 60-some years who took the grandkids tubing. She admits it was a bit scary but also a “hoot.” Jack Frost operates six chutes and a tow to get riders and tubes up the hill before launching off on their downhill cruise.
At nearby sister resort, BIG BOULDER, those in their twenties revel in the spinning effect as their tubes spiral down the hillside via one of 20 individual chutes, to be returned to the summit via two tows and a conveyor lift.
JACK FROST operates tubing on weekends at $25 for a three hour session, while Big Boulder operates seven days a week at $25 midweek and $45 on weekends for an all-day pass. To check out all the hours and rates, visit: www.jfbb.com/snow-tubing.html
The SHAWNEE MOUNTAIN snow tubing lanes echo to the sound of shrieking children, signaling the thrill of a breathtaking ride down six chutes to be returned to a launching perch at the peak by two conveyor belt lifts. Shawnee also offers tandem chutes for two riders. The tab for a two hour session is $20 midweek or $25 on weekends. Four hour sessions are $35 and $40. For more info, visit: www.shawneemt.com/index.html
CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN near Tannersville has crafted the region’s largest complex devoted strictly to snow tubing. It has a dedicated parking lot and entrance just east of the skiing and snowboarding complex. There are 40 separate lanes and two magic carpet lifts to get tubers up the hill for that elevator plunge to a long runout and deceleration zone. Three hour sessions here are $25, seven days a week. To take a look, visit: www.skicamelback.com
BLUE MOUNTAIN, just 17 miles north of Allentown, takes snow tubing to another level with single and family size chutes. My own first experience in a snow tube involved three friends in a family tube as it blazed down the hill in a constant spin. One second you see the summit, the next the base. No one is steering. Blue has carved an impressive 21 chutes that are serviced by three lifts. There’s a parking lot right near the tubing complex and a small lodge with ticket windows, restrooms, snacks and a beer or two. Session times vary, and rates are $25 and $32. For details, visit: www.skibluemt.com
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
Snow tubing skills aren’t required. Anyone in average condition can tube. Your only effort is mustering up the mettle to launch yourself from the summit. Trust the tube, it does the rest.
Check for conditions before you go, as icing and rain will cause closures. You’ll find information on the websites listed above.
Dress for winter on the snow. Waterproof pants and jackets will be most comfortable. Wear snow boots, not sneakers or street shoes. Ski gloves are best, or mittens if temperatures are below 25 degrees. Dress in layers and top it all with a good ski hat that covers your ears.
There are limits for children. Most areas require children to be 3 or 4 feet tall to tube. The size limits vary so check before heading out.
Stay warm and have fun.