The ingredients — a slope, snowmaking and grooming equipment — already are in place, so it makes all the sense that many local ski areas also should have a hand in the snow tubing business.
The attraction is simple: Tubers get to experience the speed and thrill of hurtling down a mountain without the need to strap on a pair of skis. It’s less expensive than buying a lift ticket for skiing or snowboarding and has no other restrictions other than height and age. It’s an easy way to plan a winter activity for a wide range of guests, without dropping a fortune.
But Gunstock general manager Tom Day told New England Ski Journal last year that he sees tubing almost as a gateway activity. Maybe the “high-thrill, low-skill” attraction will show participants that it’s fun to slide on snow. Maybe then, Day figures, they will want to try it on their feet instead of on their rear ends. “Ski school people will go up and talk, but not like a furniture store where people come out of the walls,” he said. “We try not to overemphasize it, but we make sure they’re aware of it.”
Last year in New Hampshire, snow tubing was up 1 percent at ski areas compared to 2019-20 and up 9 percent compared to the 10-year average. It’s become the norm to see lines at the snow tube lift just as long as they are for the traditional chairlift.
What’s not to like? The conditions are pretty much guaranteed and you don’t even have to bring your own sled. Tubes will be provided for you. And remember in the old days of sledding when you had to walk back up the hill? Please. There’s a rope tow, chairlift or magic carpet waiting to do the work for you these days.
Here’s a roundup of some of the best places in New England to feel like a kid again, slip-sliding down the hills in an upgrade on the old sleds.
Cranmore Mountain Resort — Tubing in North Conway is such a hit that the activity even got a new lodge all to itself. This year’s opening of the Artist Falls Lodge, a base lodge for Cranmore’s tubing operation as well as its adventure park, features a ground-level ticketing concourse and a new restaurant and bar. Tubing is available on up to 10 lanes, Saturday and Sunday, plus daily during holiday and vacation periods. Participants are encouraged to make reservations in advance, as tickets are limited to avoid overcrowding. Weekends and holiday periods will sell out. Cost: $45 for two hours. www.cranmore.com
Nashoba Valley — Boasting New England’s largest tubing park with a remarkable 18 lanes serviced by four lifts, Nashoba Valley long has been one of the most popular destinations for the activity in the region. Nashoba Valley even posts a tubing conditions report on its website detailing lane speed. Despite a dozen-and-a-half lanes, the area can get crowded (particularly during school vacations), so reservations are strongly encouraged. Cost: $39 for two hours. www.skinashoba.com
Ski Ward — Of course, if Nashoba can’t handle the volume, Ski Ward’s “TubaSlide” can take on the overflow of traffic in nearby Shrewsbury. Now featuring up to 12 lanes and 200 tubes, there’s even more opportunity for sliding with less of a wait. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Wednesday through Sunday and holidays. Cost: $17 (one hour, weekdays), $33 (two hours, weekends). www.skiward.com
Smugglers’ Notch Resort — Two nights each week (Tuesday and Friday) Smugglers’ Notch energizes Sir Henry’s Hill with a dazzling array of LED lights illuminating the trail. Take a spin down the lane in your tube, and the kaleidoscope of color indeed adds an extra layer of fun to the tubing experience. Daytime tubing hours vary. Tube sliding is for guests of the resort. See website for details. www.smuggs.com
Mount Snow — With a covered surface lift to go along with up to eight lanes, Mount Snow’s tubing park is one of the largest in Vermont. Located next to the base lodge, the tubing hill is easily accessible to those looking for something other than skiing or as an additional après activity. Tubing is available Friday through Sunday, plus holidays, as conditions allow. Cost: $25 for two hours. www.mountsnow.com
Stratton Mountain Resort — The Coca-Cola Tube Park at Stratton is only four lanes wide but comes with an ambiance maybe not prevalent at nearby resorts. A nearby warming hut offers light refreshments and a fire pit on select days, as well as a relaxing place to unwind after the thrill down the hill. Guests can tube by day or under the lights. Open weekends and holidays. Cost: $35 for 50 minutes. www.stratton.com
Gunstock Mountain Resort — Located in the beautiful Lakes Region, Gunstock now has nine lanes of tubing, featuring a specialized PistenBully Tube Shaper groomer attachment to make the experience smoother and faster. Daily. Cost: $34 for two hours. www.gunstock.com
Great Glen Trails — In addition to offering cross-country skiing, snowshoeing tours and fat biking, Great Glen Trails has snow tubing, but with an old-school twist. There’s no lift here at the tubing hill, just well-groomed lanes with a traditional walkup. Tubes are still included. Cost: $20 for two hours. www.greatglentrails.com
Pats Peak — One of the local ski industry’s coolest promotions is at Pats Peak, where guests can purchase a Pay-One-Price (POP) ticket with access to skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, rentals and entertainment on Saturday nights ($79 for four hours, $89 for five hours, $99 for six hours). If it’s just tubing you have on your mind, tickets can be purchased solely for the 600-foot tubing park, Fridays and weekends. Cost: $28 for two hours. www.patspeak.com
Lost Valley Ski Area — Located less than an hour north of Portland, this Maine tubing park features 600-foot lanes accessed by a handle tow lift. Maximum capacity this winter is set at 60 people per session, so reservations must be made in advance, online. Weekends and holidays. Cost: $16 for a 55-minute session. Sessions begin on the hour. Group rates available. www.lostvalleyski.com
Eric Wilbur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.