Cool Fun

If skiing and snowboarding leave you weak in the knees, give tubing a try

February 17, 2007|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,sun reporter

If your idea of good wintertime fun is sitting inside a house, sipping hot cocoa and looking at the pretty snow flurries outside, the very idea of sailing down a steep hill on an inflatable doughnut might not be for you.

Stop reading this and turn on the TV.

Now, if you don't mind the cold, if you have no fear of zipping down a slippery incline in the cold, if you aren't worried about breaking a leg while zipping down that slope in the cold, have I got the sport for you.

On second thought, snow tubing is not actually a sport. It's the best wintry nonsport you can participate in that makes you feel good about getting your sluglike body moving while not forcing you to exert a whole lot of energy.

Although ski bums might view this activity as beneath their level of expertise, do keep in mind that this can be a nice couples activity in which you don't have to rent skis, boots or poles, and the lift tickets don't cost you an arm and a leg.

It's a win-win activity, plus you can take the kids. If you don't have little ones of your own, you might want to go borrow some, because you might be the only adults who are without them on the snow chutes. This could, in fact, be the perfect activity to firm up your status as Best Aunt or Best Uncle in the Whole World.

That was certainly the idea Tammie Hahn had in mind as she stood in line with her nephews on a recent weekend at the Fernwood Hotel & Resort's snow tubing hill, near Shroudsburg, Pa., in the Poconos.

Seven-year-old Tyler DeLorenzo, dragging a plump red tube, was contemplating whether zipping down the slope on his tummy was a good idea. "Is it scary?" he asked his 11-year-old cousin Alex Pettigrew. "It looks scary."

"You go really fast," Alex responded, coolly, as the family expert.

For Hahn, it was just a matter of how long she would have to suffer the cold to make it back to the hotel's bar.

"The kids love it, and we, the adults, like that it's not dangerous to drink and snow tube," said the 37-year-old Philadelphia resident, laughing as she pointed to the nearby fun center where a cozy fireplace, hot toddies and eats could be found.

While a hot toddy might sound rather pleasant, it's not a good idea to drink and tube; most facilities post large signs warning participants that snow tubing is a dangerous sport that can lead to serious injuries.

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I made a mental note of that, of course, as I stood in line for the lift.

No fan of cold or snow, I used the 10-minute wait time to reflect on why I had just paid someone $19 to borrow a green doughnut (at least they gave me a discount from the regular $21 adult fee for two hours of fun, fantastic tubing) to sit in while I sped down a hill. Good thing I had on enough layers, some good gloves and warm snow boots to keep off the chill; the waiting line can be rather long.

I plopped my posterior down on the doughnut and as the motorized pulley towed me and the inflatable up higher and higher on the hill, I thought to myself, "This can't be smart."

What if the tube flies right into traffic? (There's a barrier and fence to prevent such accidents.) What if I flip right off the tube? (Possible, but tube workers recommend that if you feel yourself slipping, just gently roll off the side of the tube.) What if I crash into another tuber? (Unlikely, given that each tube goes down a separate chute with built-in snow walls that separate everyone well enough.)

Chewing over each scenario and then considering my options, I watched as others slid down before me. Some scootched themselves to the edge of the chute until the tube dropped on its own. Some requested a big, strong push. Others chose to take a running start and fling themselves off the hill to land on the tube in mid-flight. I will mention that the facility recommends against running and flinging.

Not one to break such wise rules, I went with the push.

As the tube picked up speed, and everyone else around me became a blur, I grabbed the handlebars tightly and screamed all the way down as the wind whooshed against my face. I hollered some more when the tube spun in a little circle as it rocketed down the chute. I didn't stop yelling until the tube passed over a bump and immediately slowed down.

At a dead stop, I hopped up quickly and scurried off the hill to head right back up again.

Not bad, I thought, not bad at all.

A number of Poconos hotel resorts offer snow tubing, as do many area ski resorts. Here are some places to check out:

Alpine Mountain Ski Area

Analomink, Pa.;


Cost: $5-$20

Big Boulder Ski Area

Blakeslee, Pa.; 570-722-0101

Cost: $20-$40

Blue Knob

Claysburg, Pa.; 800-458-3403

Cost: $8-$35

Blue Mountain Ski Area

Palmerton, Pa.; 610-826-7700

Cost: $17-$23

Camelback Ski Area

Camelback Road

Tannersville, Pa.; 570-629-1661

Cost: $22-$36

Jack Frost Mountain Ski Area

Blakeslee, Pa.; 570-443-8425

Cost $20-$40

Liberty Mountain Resort

Carroll Valley, Pa.; 717-642-8282

Cost: $8-$18

Seven Springs Mountain Resort

Champion, Pa.; 800-452-2223

Cost: $8-$15

Whitetail Resort

Mercersburg, Pa.; 717-328-9400

Cost: $12-$18

Wisp Resort

McHenry; 301-387-4911

Cost: $15-$20

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