PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Old inner tubes have been re-purposed for everything from cushions and swings to rubber rafts for floating up a lazy river. But, they’ve taken on a new life and style at ski resorts across the country. No more donut hole. The hollow part has a lining to keep you dry as multi colored tubes spin and swirl down groomed mountain chutes. Then, along with their riders are hauled back up the slope for another wind-in-the-hair run. The idea began as resort operators realized that not everyone skis and snowboards. But many were just tagging along with skiing friends for mountain weekends. Tubing was the answer. Almost anyone can do it. It doesn’t take a special skill and it’s an exhilarating activity. In Pennsylvania ski country, here’s where the rubber meets the snow.
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They call it “Galactic”. It might as well be. Forty-two chutes and a pair of Magic-Carpet lifts, fired up by a laser light show combine to form one of the most dynamic tubing parks in the country. Located between the ski lodges and the Camelback Water Park, the tubes are soaring day and night. Tickets are sold for 3-hour sessions with midweek tags going for $25. Weekend tariffs climb to $35. Check out discounts and requirements here. The tubing park here has its own lodge and parking and you’re almost a snow ball throw away from the Camel Lodge Water Park with a swim-up bar. So, who needs skiing?
Jack Frost Mountain and nearby sister resort Big Boulder have been pioneers since the dawn of Pennsylvania snow sports. Snowmaking began in the Poconos at Big Boulder nearly 65 years ago. Jack Frost was one of the first Pocono resorts to open the trails to snowboarders. And it was the first to carve lanes for the latest national snow craze – Tubing. Both mountains offer tubing chutes – 8 at Frost, 11 at Boulder. Both run 3-hour sessions or all-day. Jack Frost is a day time favorite, Boulder by night – both on weekends. Prices start at $25. Ride to the summit at Jack Frost on a pair of cable tows. At Boulder it’s a Magic-Carpet lift (conveyor belt on the snow). Both tubing parks are within steps of the main lodges.
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Blue Mountain serves up tubing, “Family Style”. Park yourself, spouse and a pair of kids in an oversize tube and spin your way down 39 chutes of whirling fun. My first ride was in a 4 person tube with 3 KYW colleagues. None of us knew what we were doing. But that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to. The tube goes in one direction – down! The spin is a blast as you’re looking uphill one second, down, the next until that easy run-out at the base. At Blue, you can buy 3 or 4 hour sessions with discounts for on-line ordering. One note: As the season begins, Blue is offering single-rider tubes. Keep checking the mountain for family-tube availability.
Working your tube to the very cusp of the Shawnee Mountain snow tubing park, you’re staring down at the “Pocono Plunge”. That’s 6 chutes of undulating downhill flight against a backdrop of ski trails and woods. A pair of Magic Carpet lifts whisks tubers back up the hill after each run in a single adult tube or a larger version to accommodate parent and snow sprout. There’s day and night action here in 2 and 4-hour sessions that range in price from $25 to $45. If you’re planning to mix it up with a little skiing and a tubing break, Shawnee suggests you have a pair of snow boots in tow. Ski boots are not allowed in the tubes.
OTHER PENNSYLVANIA TUBING HOT SPOTS
Closest to home, there’s day trip snow tubing action at Spring Mountain in Central Montgomery County. A tubing park is also on the snow sports menu at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. If you have business in the Harrisburg area, take a break from work in the chutes at nearby Roundtop Mountain. And if you’ll be visiting and playing in the Allegheny Mountains, try some sliding at Hidden Valley, part of the sprawling Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
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SOME TIPS: You don’t need anything special for tubing. It’s pretty much like sledding. Just remember to keep it warm and waterproof. Wear snow boots, not sneakers. Dress in layers. Wear good gloves for temps above freezing, mittens for temps in frostbite territory. Then, just enjoy.