Pumped up on tubing

Those who aren't interested in being on the leading edge - or any edge at all - have their choice of several inexpensive areas for low-tech inner-tubing on snow


Steve Botkin; The News Tribune

If you aren't a skier or snowboarder but still want to have some fun in the mountains this winter, consider snow tubing.

 There are areas near ski resorts and at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, that are set up just for sliding down a hill on an inner tube or plastic disc. The runs are groomed and packed, with maybe a few bumps for those who want to catch some air.

 Most established tubing areas have a variety of runs: some gentle, for young children, others steeper for a faster ride down. Some have powered rope tows that you can hook your tube to and get pulled up the hill. Many areas are lighted and operate into the night.

All areas, including those at the national parks, have attendants on duty to assist riders and attend to any emergency. Lodges are nearby where people can warm up and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.

At commercial areas, you really don't need to bring anything except warm clothes and money: Tube rental

typically is included in the ticket price. At national parks, you must bring your own sliding devices. Only inner tubes or plastic discs allowed; wooden toboggans or sleds with metal runners are banned.

Sliders are advised to wear snow clothing: ski parkas, ski pants, stocking caps, boots and gloves. Bring an extra set of clothing to change into, especially if you're wearing jeans or any other clothing that can absorb moisture and get cold and wet.

 Here's a rundown of the established tubing areas nearest to South Sound:

Snowflake Tubing Area

 Location: Snoqualmie Pass, about 50 miles east of Seattle on Interstate 90 (Exit 53), across from the Summit Central ski area.

The is the largest established tubing area and the most convenient one for South Sound residents. One main rope tow with handles on each side serves several runs ranging from beginner to advanced. Tickets for a two-hour session are $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under. The price includes tube rental and rope tow. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and daily through Jan 1.

Sessions are 9-11 a.m., 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m., 1:30-3:30 p.m., 3:45-5:45 p.m., 6-8 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. The operators try not to put too many people on the hill, so get there early since the sessions do sell out. Groups of 20 or more can make advance reservations by calling 206-236-7727, Ext. 6527. The midday sessions at 11:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. are the most popular, and tickets for these two sessions on weekends and during holiday periods are higher - $13 for adults and $11 for children.

No personal sledding devices are allowed; riding more than one to a tube and jumping are prohibited. Food and drinks are available at the Snowflake Tubing Center adjacent to the tubing hill.

 New this year next to the Snowflake Tubing Center is the Summit Speedway, where youngsters ages 6-12 can race minisnowmobiles around a track. The cost is $10 for a 10-minute session.

Information on the Snowflake Tubing Center is available on the Web at www.summit-at-snoqualmie.com or by calling 206-236-7277, Ext. 4699.

Totally Tubular Winter Park

 Location: Sun Country Golf Resorts, 78 miles east of Seattle, 10 miles west of Cle Elum, two miles off I-90 (Exit 78).

 This tubing area, another 40 minutes east of Snoqualmie Summit under normal driving conditions, doesn't attract the big crowds the more established area at Snoqualmie does, but it offers many of the same amenities, including a handled rope tow and several runs.

 The area operates in two-hour sessions from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays and holidays. It's open weekdays during Christmas break.

The ticket price is $5 for rope tow and $3 for tube rental for a two-hour session. An all-day ticket is $8 for rope tow and $5 for tube rental. Helmets are available to rent for $1.

Riders are allowed to bring their own inner tubes and discs (but no hard-runnered sleds or toboggans). Air pumps are available on site. An adjacent clubhouse offers food, drinks and a closed-circuit TV that shows the sliders out on the hills. For information, call 509-674-2226.

Tube City

 Location: Stevens Pass, 78 miles east of Seattle on U.S. 2.

The tubing hill is situated among the ski runs and chair lifts at the Stevens Pass ski area, although the runs are far enough apart that tubers and skiers/snowboarders don't get in each other's way. Tubers enter the ski area along with the skiers and snowboarders and follow the signs to Tube City.

 The tubing area has a single-handled rope tow and three levels of runs. Riders must be at least 3 years old or 42 inches tall, although smaller children can ride with parents.

Usual hours are noon-9 p.m. Friday-Monday; it's open daily through Jan. 1. The ticket price is $10 per person for a 90-minute session and tube rental. Riders can join a session every half hour as long as there's room.

Tube City operates similarly to a water park in that you don't hold onto the same tube throughout the session; instead you grab one when it becomes available. Personal tubes or other sliding devices are not allowed. A variety of food and drinks are available at the adjacent ski lodges.

 For information, call 206-812-4510 or go online to www.stevenspass.com.

 Paradise Snowplay Area

 Location: Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park, 60 miles southeast of Tacoma on Highway 706.

 Low snowfall has prevented this popular tubing area at Mount Rainier from operating so far this season. Park officials have scheduled it to open Tuesday, anticipating that by then there will be the 5 feet of snow necessary to create and pack the runs. The tubing area is next to the upper parking lot, past the Jackson Visitor Center. The sliding area is open every day, weather permitting, although the Snowplay rangers are on duty only weekends.

There is no cost at the tubing area, but there is a $10 per vehicle fee to enter the park. Riders must bring their own sliding devices, which can be inner tubes or plastic discs. An air compressor is available at the visitor center. No wooden toboggans or sleds with metal runners or hard edges are allowed.

There are hills for both children and adults, but tubers must walk back up since there are no rope tows. Skis or snowboards are prohibited in the tubing area. Pets are not allowed.

Food and drinks are available in the Jackson Visitor Center on weekends. Rest rooms are open daily. The gate at Longmire opens daily by 10 a.m., conditions permitting, and closes to uphill traffic at dusk. For information, call 360-569-2211.

Sunrise Snowplay Area

 Location: Hurricane Ridge, 16 miles south of the Olympic National Park visitor center in Port Angeles.

There are two tubing areas at Hurricane Ridge, one for small children and the other for larger children and adults. The steeper Sunrise Snowplay Area is along the road about a mile below the Hurricane Ridge visitor center. The "tiny tots" snowplay area for small children is next to the visitor center.

The areas are open daily through the Christmas break as long as the road to Hurricane Ridge is open. The tubing areas can be closed due to ice or other dangerous conditions. The road is closed Tuesday and Wednesday except during Christmas break.

Riders must bring their own sliding devices - inner tubes or plastic discs are OK, but wooden toboggans or sleds with metal runners or hard edges are prohibited. There is no rope tow. Snowboards, skis and pets are not allowed in the sliding areas. Park attendants are on duty at the sliding areas on weekends and holidays.

Food and drinks are available at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends and holidays, and daily except Christmas Day through Jan. 1.

 For information, call 360-452-0330 or 360-674-2226 for a recorded weather and road update.

© The News Tribune