Feel Like a Kid Again with Snow Tubing
I guess you could say I’m the “social organizer” in my group of friends. I love throwing bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, girls’ nights out, beer tastings, dinner parties, theme parties, and any excuse, really, just to get people together.
My kids’ birthday parties are a great way to see loved ones in June and August, but during the long, cold winter, it seems like people tend to hibernate a little more. Which is why I'm glad I have a winter birthday.
When I was turning 25 just a few (cough, cough) years ago, I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday by doing something I hadn’t done in a long, long time. I wanted to go snow tubing.
I was surprised that so many friends and family were willing to join me at Green Acres in Lake Elmo despite the frigid temps. I think they just needed a nudge to break out their cold-weather gear and get outside for a few hours. In the end, everyone had a glorious time (everyone except my friend Lori, who took an unfortunate boot to the face). We all used muscles we hadn’t used in awhile and laughed and screamed and felt like kids again. It's the same thrilling sensation you get from sledding, the exhilaration of flying over the snow—complete freedom. My favorite (every year) is when we create a group chain, where everyone links together and zips down the hill as one crazy fast-moving unit. (Tip: it’s easier to hold someone’s boots then to try to link arms once your chain starts gathering momentum. Another tip: Some places have tubing lanes and don’t allow chains. Personally, I think group chains are more fun than riding down the hill alone!)
Snow Tubing at Green Acres
Tubing is family-friendly (many local hills have either a height requirement of 42 inches or a minimum age of 5, and allow the little ones who meet these requirements to ride up the tow rope and down the hill with an adult), and you don't have to be athletic, you don't need lessons, no fancy equipment is necessary (the tubes are supplied), and it’s relatively inexpensive, ranging from $8-$18 per session, depending on where you go.
I took a few years off of snow tubing when I was either pregnant or taking care of my wee ones, celebrating one birthday at Flaherty’s Arden Bowl, another year renting a private bus with friends and family and going on the Saint Paul Gangster Tour before having dinner at McGovern’s, and another year heading to the sandstone caves on the south shore of the Mississippi for the Historic Wabasha Street Caves Tour (I was clearly on a gangster kick then). While those birthdays were fun and memorable, it wasn’t quite the same as going tubing.
It’s been a fairly snow-less winter so far, which is nice in some respects, but don’t you kind of miss the white stuff? Just a little bit? Get your snow “fix” and have a blast at one of the snow tubing hills in the area (they make their own snow). Breathing in that crisp, clear winter air is invigorating! And who knows? You might even see me out on the hill, screaming my way to the bottom, dusting the snow off my coat and snowpants, wiping the slush off my smiling face, then heading back to the tow rope for more.
• Dress in water-proof layers (better to have the option of shedding a layer than to be cold and miserable).
• Wear a warm hat and warm boots.
• If you’re going during the day, goggles can protect your eyes from the sun and face from the snow spray.
• Many places restrict scarves (they could get caught in the tow rope), so invest in a neck gator (or warm turtleneck) instead.
• Wear gloves or mittens with good tread for gripping the tow rope (it can get slippery).
• Over the years, I’ve found that it’s easiest to hold onto the rope by draping a leg (or all of my weight) over the rope and letting the tow do the hard work.
• Once you get to the top of the tow rope, try to roll out of the way (if possible), rather than landing hard on your knees. You'll save your knees from some nasty bruises.
• Get out of the way—fast—once you get to the bottom so that you don’t get plowed over by other tubers. Many injuries happen at the bottom of the hill.
• Don’t forget an extra set of dry clothes to change into after you’re done with the fun, especially if you’re planning on going out afterwards.
Local snow tubing hills:
Afton Alps Snow Tubing Park (Hastings). $16 two-hour session; $18 three-hour session; discounted tubing ticket available with purchase of same day ski/snowboard lift ticket, $8 for two-hour session.
Buck Hill (Burnsville). Two-hour day session (until 4 p.m.) $16; two-hour night session (4 p.m. to close) $14; late-night space (one hour prior to close) $10.
Eko Backen (Scandia). Tube and tow (any three-hour period) 13 years and older $14; 4-14 years $11; three and under free.
Green Acres (Lake Elmo). Adults and teenagers (13 years and older) $15; children (12 and under) $10; children (under 42 inches tall) $5 per child (must ride with parent or guardian).
Wild Chutes Snow Tubing at Wild Mountain (Taylors Falls). $15 for the first two hours; $3 for each additional hour.
Wirth Winter Rec Area (Minneapolis). Ages 4-17 $8; ages 18 and up $12.