A fun affordable all-ages and semi-scary way to hit the slopes this winter

If you don’t ski or snowboard it can make Alberta winters just a tad more interminable. The reality of ski resorts doesn’t help. Instead of partying with hot blondes in neon ski suits and leg warmers you have evil and rich alpha males kicking snow in your face. Or maybe I’m thinking of Ski School .

Anyway if you’re like me and find the outdoors just way too scary to deal with tubing down the slopes is the perfect activity. It’s semi-scary and dangerous (therefore exciting) and gravity does all the work for you. Just plop that ass down on the tube and hold on for dear life.

One of the best and busiest of the tubing parks is just outside the city in lovely mountainous Banff National Park.

The Mt. Norquay tube park is one of the ski hill’s most popular attractions. Communications manager Julia LoVecchio says the activity has become popular for two reasons: it’s fun for all ages and it’s more affordable than skiing.

“Everyone can do it regardless of age and physical ability” says LoVecchio. There is a height restriction (no children under 42 inches) though I guess you could hide a baby under a big puffy ski coat. (Don’t do that.)

“It’s also an activity that the whole family can enjoy” she adds. “It’s an affordable activity in the mountains a really acceptable price point for a day in Banff.”

Compared to a lift ticket the rates are much more reasonable. A half-day’s tubing costs a family of four $85. If you’re going solo it’s $30.

The park can get packed on holidays and weekends so be prepared to take your time and share your inner tube.

“We definitely have days when it’s faster to walk up the hill than take the magic carpet (lift)” says LoVecchio. “It doesn’t seem to bother anyone.”

She adds that two more lanes are being added doubling the size of the park. There’s also a mini hill for kids and a play park.

The tube park is part of Mt. Norquay’s move towards making the hill more of an inclusive “multi-sport” winter destination.

“On a regional level there’s definitely competition” says LoVecchio. “Variety is what people want.”

With Nakiska Sunshine Village and Lake Louise all within a short drive tubing isn’t the only way Mt. Norquay has distinguished itself. For example the resort offers skiing by the hour which is great for people who live in the region or who want to enjoy the beautiful outdoors but don’t have a lot of time.

“For someone coming from Calgary it takes 45 minutes to drive here” she says. “They can ski for the morning and get back to the office by one.”

If you’re planning to hit the tube park LoVecchio recommends the usual snowpants and sturdy winter boots.

“You could get away with sneakers but you’ll get snow down your shoes” she says.

Leave your crazy carpet or inner tube at home however. LoVecchio says the ones at the hill are “specifically designed for the activity” with the rubber tube stuffed into a plastic sleeve with a hard plastic bottom. It has a lanyard you can use to drag it up the hill and a canvas cover so it isn’t extra slippery.

Wearing a helmet isn’t mandatory though it’s probably a good idea if you’re racing down the hill with other riders. Each tube can hold up to four people so you can take turns trying to knock each other off into the snow at maximum speed (my idea not theirs).

When asked if she’s seen any awesomely crazy or gross accidents LoVecchio says no. “We’re very safety-conscious” she says.

I know from personal experience that the tube park is a popular destination for work parties as well where everyone gets super juiced on the party bus ride to Banff before they hit the tubes. (Again LoVecchio says this is “not the best idea.”)

Mt. Norquay has one lift open on weekends until Friday November 29 when the rest of the hill — including the tube park — will be up and running.

For ski conditions and more information visit banffnorquay.com .

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