DINNIGAN’S DIVERSIONS

Tubing during a snowless winter

LIZZ DINNIGAN

Give me a tube and a snow mountain, and I turn into a child. If you’ve never tried it, snow tubing has the same sensation as sledding, except it’s bumpier and you don’t have to hoof it back up the hill. Aslow-moving, flat conveyor belt, typically called the “Magic Carpet Lift,” returns you and the tube to the top of the tubing terrain.

My snow-tubing obsession began in high school. I joined the Ski Club only so I could haveweekend adventures with my classmates at winter resorts in Vermont and Quebec, not because I have any sort of proficiency for the sport.

I was just plain embarrassing in ski school, but that was nothing compared with venturing out on the intermediate slope the moment my fellow ski-incompetent friend and I gained a touch of confidence. What started out as an ambitious run ended in a ski patrol rescue.

What I did learn during those getaways was although I may not be a skier, I definitely have an aptitude for snow tubing, since the only physical requirements are being able to sit. After skiing, we’d head over to the snowtubing lanes. Our group had a great time connecting multiple tubes together and repeatedly coasting down the chutes.

Snow seekers

I still love snow as an adult, and find my kids’ enthusiasm for snow infectious. When the school calls a snow day, our family tradition is to take an early-morning drive to the popular sledding hill at Holmdel Park. During this snowless winter, we’ve missed the simple joy of sledding. Then it occurred to me: If the snow won’t come to us, we need to find the snow. So let’s go where snowismade: a ski resort with a snow-tubing park.

The first time we took the boys tubing was a few years ago. We drove with another family to Camelback Mountain Resort in the Poconos. My little one was only 2 and didn’t meet the height requirement, but he was permitted to ride with us in the large, five-person family

tubes. I remember the four of us barreling down the slope hysterical laughing. Unfortunately, the family tubes are no longer used there.

And now we plan to go again over Presidents Day weekend! This time, a large group of us are heading to Tuxedo Ridge in New York’s Hudson Valley. And the kids are finally old enough to fully embrace the experience and race their friends to the bottom.

There are numerous ski centers within a two-hour radius of central New Jersey that offer snow tubing. Call ahead for weight requirements. Most places require that you sign a release form. Minors must be accompanied by adults; it’s not a drop-off activity. Tubes are provided. Rates listed are per person.

Blue Mountain Ski Area: There are up to 21 slides and three lifts at this Poconos snow-tube park in Palmerton, Pa. If you’re interested in the large family-size tubes, you’re in luck! It’s offered here Thursdays to Sundays and holidays (Feb. 20). Tubers can show up anytime during each six-hour session and stay at long as they wish. Tickets don’t sell out. Weekday (except holidays) tickets are $24. Sessions are Mondays-Thursdays, 4-10 p.m., and Fridays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 4-10 p.m. Weekend and holiday rates are either $25 or $29, depending on the time selected. Riders must be 36 inches tall. Visit www.skib luemt.com/SkiBlue/index. aspx.

Camelback Mountain Resort: The snow-tubing center at this resort in Tannersville, Pa., offers single and double tubes on up to 20 lanes. There are two conveyor walkways. Riders must be between 33 and 43 inches to ride in a double tube with a parent, and at least 44 inches to ride alone. Rates are $25 Mondays-Fridays (nonholiday) for unlimited runs all day long or for three hours on weekends and holidays. Snow tubing is just $12 if you show your lift ticket. Remaining holiday dates are Feb. 17-26. The park is open daily, weather permitting. Kids under 14 must be accompanied by an adult with a valid tubing ticket. Call www.skicamelback.com/Camelback- Mountain/Snowtubing.aspx.

Mountain Creek: The Drop Zone Tube Park at this ski center in Vernon, N.J., offers more than 30 lanes, with an automated lift. Two-hour sessions run 4-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays ($20), and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays ($25). Holidays are Feb. 18-26. Kids must be at least 42 inches tall and 5 years old. They book groups of 30 or more. Reservations are strongly recommended. Visit www.mountaincreek.com/ tickets/snowtubing-tickets.

Ski Shawnee: Snow-tubing tickets at Shawnee are not sold in advance; they’re available on a first-come basis. So if you’re coming from a distance away, it’s a crap shoot. Single and adult/child tandem tubes (childmust be 46 inches or less) are available at this snow-tube park in the Poconos. Twohour sessions cost $20 midweek, and $25 on weekends and holidays. They operate 9 a.m.- 7:30 p.m. Four-hour sessions cost $35 and $40, respectively. They run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The tubing park closes from 5 to 5:30 p.m. nightly for grooming. Visit www.shawneemt.com/ poconos- snowtubing/ snow_ tubing.html. (Another Poconos resort, Jack Frost Big Boulder [www.jfbb.com/plan/tubing] offers expansive snow-tubing facilities, but they also don’t accept reservations).

Tuxedo Ridge: This is the closest ski area to New York City, located in Sterling Forest in Tuxedo, N.Y. There are two tubing runs stretching 500 feet long. There is one lift. Kids must be 42 inches and adults no more than 240 pounds. Only one person permitted per tube. Online tickets must be purchased at least one day in advance; phone reservations are not accepted. Sessions are an hour and a half at specified times. The cost is either $20 or $25 person, depending on the day/time selected. The lanes are open Thursdays to Sundays. Visit www.tuxedoridge.com.

Please email me with any events, festivals or suggestions for future columns at jjoedinn@aol.com.