Story by Adam Bisby
Tube parks are practically mandatory at ski resorts these days. Blue Mountain, for instance, couldn’t live without one.
Eight years after closing its original venue for sliding down snowy slopes on inner tubes, Ontario’s largest mountain village has unveiled Hike N’ Tube, which features four undulating lanes on a hillside overlooking the Westin Trillium House hotel.
Hike N’ Tube is just one more diversion for Blue guests who don’t ski or snowboard, and offers reliable family fun for anyone who can pull a tube up a hill (it’s designed for sliders over the age of two). I’m pretty sure that Grace, my five-year-old daughter, would have climbed the 100-metre hill until the snow melted — and even then would have kept going, as she does — while my wife, Angela, agreed with the general consensus that the spinning descents were “speedier than expected.”
Hike N’ Tube may elicit squeals of glee, but you’d have to have lived an extremely sheltered life to feel even a hint of fear on its gentle slopes. The same can’t be said for the other venues on this list. Just as ski hills have beginner and black-diamond runs, tube parks also range from tame to hilariously terrifying, and the five spots below lean toward the latter:
GLISSADES DES PAYS D’EN HAUT, Piedmont, Quebec
Quebec embraces tubing like nowhere else on Earth, and this 50-year-old park halfway between Montreal and Mont Tremblant represents the pinnacle of the pursuit in La Belle Province. Billed as the largest tubing centre in the world, its 32 runs max out at 250 vertical feet and are serviced by five lifts, including one chairlift. “Snow rafts,” meanwhile, accommodate as many as 12 riders, while four-person bobsleds mimic the Olympic sport (but on snow). The direct English translation of the park’s name is unclear, but let’s just go with “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” for now…
COCA-COLA TUBE PARK, Whistler, British Columbia
Like every venue on this list, Whistler uses a lift to help guests reach the top of its seven 400-metre-long lanes. Once sliders get there, however, there’s a unique variety of options: They can careen down in a group (as long as conditions permit); there’s a “kids’ lane” halfway up where parents can hang onto their child’s tube (for the child’s sake, of course); and there are even child-sized tubes. Plus, BeaverTails and poutine — together at last! — are served in the on-site snack bar.
CHICOPEE TUBE PARK, Kitchener, Ontario
No snowfall around March Break? No problem: A snowmaking system keeps these six 300-metre-long lanes open all winter, high-powered halogen lights keep them open till10 pm, and for refreshments there’s a splendid log chalet overlooking the hill.
VALCARTIER VACATION VILLAGE, Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, Quebec
What happens when snow coats this waterslide park north of Quebec City? Simple: It becomes “the largest winter playground in North America.” Its 35 snow slides have fear-inducing names like Himalaya and Everest, and reach speeds of up to 80 km/h. Snow rafts, meanwhile, let groups of 12 scream in unison, while the unique Tornado whirls parties of eight down the slopes.
[box_light]Watch this Video from the Quebec Carnival of the Tornado in Action![/box_light]
THUNDER VALLEY, Horseshoe Resort, Barrie, Ontario
There are no official speed records for tubing in Canada, but these five 200-metre-long lanes are as steep as they come. And if guests need a few hundred extra calories, or a few ounces of liquid courage, to take the plunge, Horseshoe’s tube park theme nights include specialty cocktails in the Crazy Horse tavern or hot chocolate and s’mores by a bonfire.