Out and About: Fast Track to Fun: Tubing

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS | TREETOPS RESORT

Enjoying exhilarating winter recreation in Northern Michigan is a breeze with snow tubing, one of the fastest-growing forms of outdoor adventure.

“Tubing is popular because of its ease of enjoyment. Outdoor enthusiasts of any age and skill level can relish the rush of zipping down the slopes,” states Kevin McKinley, director of golf and ski operations at Treetops Resort in Gaylord. “I’ve seen people in their 80s who thoroughly delight in the adventure.”

One advantage of tubing over other winter sports is that it requires no intense training, no lengthy learning curve, and no special athletic skills. Within minutes of arriving, people are reveling in the fast-paced fun – with very little risk of injury.  Most parks have lifts, conveyors, or tow-ropes, so there’s no hiking back up the hill. Riders simply glide along amid breathtaking scenery and begin the adventure again.

Tubing is also convenient and relatively inexpensive. Most ski resorts have tube parks on site, and no expensive gear needs to purchased, hauled, or rented.

Fee options range from a single ride, several-hour sessions, or an all-day pass, and vary in price by park. Riders can participate in many different ways as well. Families and friends can link tubes or ride tandem with little ones. Tubing parties are also becoming popular.

Located in the Upper Peninsula on the campus of Gogebic Community College, Mount Zion Recreational Complex in Ironwood is the oldest winter venue and boast reasonable rates at its snow tubing park. Last season, a two-hour snow tubing session cost just $18 for adults and children.

Also in the UP is Gladstone Sports Park, on the beautiful shores of Little Bay de Noc. The venue provides three tube runs and a lift, but tubing is allowed only on the weekends. Ski Brule in Iron River offers two venues for snow tubing, the Whitewater Snow Tubing Park, and the more traditional Homestead Snow Tubing Park. In 2016, five runs down the Whitewater hill cost just $5, and unlimited rides in the Homestead Tubing Park cost just $4, since the park has no lift.

Alternatively, Treetops Resort offers one-hour tubing sessions throughout the day, and no more than 24 people are permitted on the hills each hour. With one of the steepest hills going, Treetops prides itself on its “Extreme Tubing” and team members who are trained to make runs as exciting as possible.

In Boyne Falls, Boyne Mountain features a high-velocity tube park and states on its website that: “Tubing may just be the most fun you can have while sitting down.” With select packages at the resort, tubing tickets are complimentary for lodging guests.

Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire features Alpine Tubing in a multilane park on Summit Mountain. Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs offers eight side-by-side, 800-foot tubing lanes.

In nearby Traverse City, Timberlee Hills boasts Northern Michigan’s largest snow tubing hill, with no set lanes. Also in Traverse City, the Mt. Holiday community recreation area hosts groups of any size. The entire run can be rented for private parties.

General Tips

  • Layered clothing suited to cold weather, such as long underwear and waterproof outer gear, will keep you toasty.
  • Ski boots and snowboard boots are not permitted in a tubing park.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, or goggles are recommended.
  • Helmets may be required.
  • Snow Tube Parks have different age and height requirements, so call or check online before a visit.