Welcome back to the fourth installment of All Bundled Up. If you missed our previous three sessions covering snowshoeing, snow biking, and yoga, you might want to head back to All bundled up, now what? – Snowshoeing is a good place to start! and catch up. If you have been following along, we have been exploring activities that can help you prepare for your first day on the mountain. Our next stop is heading to the tubing hill for your first exposure to the slopes. While it may seem like an activity more appropriate for a child, the tubing hills that many resorts and town parks have developed fun for all ages. You’ll soon find a huge grin on your face! So grab the boots that you acquired from the snowshoeing earlier and your yoga mat, and let’s go have some fun!If you have trouble locating a tubing hill near you, you might want to try locating one on the blog Snow Tubing Source that we found while researching this article. A typical tubing session lasts about one hour is scheduled beforehand and can sell out during peak times such as the Christmas holiday and spring break. As soon as you know the dates of your trip, it is recommended to call ahead to get a reservation. Make sure you book with some friends as the fun grows exponentially when you all tube down the hill together. While a nighttime session may sound fun (and they are), consider that temperatures in the mountains will drop significantly after nightfall. Likewise, the first runs in the morning can also be a bit nippy, and you will be fighting the same traffic heading for the ski runs. For your first time, you might want to consider a midafternoon session and then follow our advice in the article Save Some Dough – Aprés Ski or Soak. You’ll avoid traffic, stay warm, and have the opportunity share your stories afterward over a beer and an appetizer.
When you arrive at the parking lot, you’ll have probably been wearing more comfortable shoes for the ride. You may have noticed during the yoga session, that I was standing on a yoga mat in the featured pic when putting on my boots. Many parking lots at tubing hills as well as many ski areas are not paved and may have snow that has fallen since the last time they plowed. Your Yoga mat will provide a nice, clean, and dry surface to stand on in socks while you get your shoes on. Trust me you will be the envy of others who are trying to hop around on one foot or overpaying for a locker in the lodge. I get compliments all the time about it. However, it worth noting it can get really dirty, especially if you happen to be parked where water may run off to. To mitigate dirt getting into the car, I bring some wet wipes to wipe it off my matt before rolling it up.
If you didn’t do it during the reservation process, you would likely have to sign an activity waiver and possibly watch a safety video before they allow you to partake. The waiver limits the liability of the ski area for a lot of factors and that they generally cannot control due to being in the elements and subject to ability levels. In Colorado, it will likely reference the state law that says something like:
Under Colorado law, a skier assumes the risk of any injury to person or property resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing and may not recover from any ski area operator for any injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing, including: changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions’ bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities.
While I do recommend you read the waiver thoroughly, don’t let the legalese about obstacles scare you off. The tubing hills are very controlled environments you won’t find most of these obstacles. A bare spot might be the exception, but its unlikely the run would still be open at that point. It is, however, important to note you are liable if you collide with other people. Make a note of that, and we will cover in more detail a little later on.
That said, there are a few skills we will be starting to pick up on while we are here. We will be considering riding a magic carpet, getting used speed and acceleration on a modest slope, learning some yielding skills, and get perspective of altitude and its impact on your body. The best part of getting these skills on the tubing hill is it is often a more controlled environment as the tubing hill typically limits the number of participants.
A magic carpet is part of the broader family of surface lifts and is a relatively new addition to this family. Unlike other surface lifts like a rope tow, platter, and t-bar, these typically do not require as much skill to get to the top of the slope. If you can stand on it, you can get to the top. When you see one in person, you will find it to be quite similar to your people mover at an airport. The difference is these are designed explicitly with additional traction, and since they go uphill, they have quite a bit more power. Additionally, they are sometimes covered to provide some protection from any wind while riding.
When you approach the magic carpet, your local hill will have instructions on how to hold your tube so be sure to follow those guidelines. The Frisco Adventure center instructs you to hold your tube vertically in front to prevent it from getting away if you happen to let it go. When you approach the lift, make sure you don’t have any loose clothing or boot laces that you might get caught and lean gently uphill as you step on the carpet to compensate for the speed of the belt. There will likely be an attendant at the bottom, and they will make sure there is sufficient space between riders and not overloaded. He or she is also there to help you if you have any questions. As you ascend, you may notice a few irregularities in the surface. While it’s not a big deal standing, its something to take note of for later when you are attached to skis or snowboard. These magic carpets are not wide enough to pass so just relax and enjoy the scenery as you are glided along. As you near the top, double check for loose clothing and carefully step off at the top.
At this point, you will likely face a few choices of runs, whether or not to link up tubes with your buddies, and if you want the attendant to push or spin you as you leave the top. All of these options are great fun. However, for the first run, just let gravity do the work so you can feel how quickly you pick up speed on the slopes. The length of the run may vary depending on your tubing hill of choice. The Frisco Adventure Center is one of the longest in the nation with 5 runs to chose from and runs upwards of 1200 ft, so there is plenty of slopes to pick up speed.
Once you get yourself sat down, the attendant verifies your course is clear, will give you a gentle push, and whoosh you will be on your way down the hill. Personally, the first time I did tubing, I was amazed how fast I got going. Combined with being low to the ground and being at the will of gravity, it was quite amazed at the rush of the experience. After a short section of steeper grade, you will start to level out and naturally start to slow down. As you get towards the end of the run, you will likely be all but stopped. There may be some rubber mats along with a slight upward slope to guarantee your stop. After you gather your bearings, quickly get up, and clear your lane.
However, don’t start to cross the lane next to you before you look uphill to make sure there is downhill traffic that you are about to cross into. In this situation, you are considered a stationary object that is merging into the flow, and you must yield to the person moving. Uphill and downhill right of way changes based on the situation and we will talk in another session about other rules that take into account downhill skier right of way. Regardless of who has the right of way, remember most people are on vacation and not thinking about rules as much as they might be. If you do find yourself on the run and someone cuts off or worst yet they actually make contact, take a deep breath, be courteous, be quick to say sorry, and check if they are ok. There is no value in cursing someone out, escalating a situation, and ruining a vacation. Furthermore, just like on the streets you must not run off. The bottom line here is to be super aware of those around you, regardless of right of way, and realize that many are just overwhelmed by the experience and beauty.
After you walk from the bottom of the tubing hill to the bottom of the magic carpet. You’ll might find yourself a bit out of breath. This may surprise some people that consider themselves fit. It’s not the effort that it took, its quite easily the attitude that is affecting you. Part of the reason we chose tubing as our next step in training is the relatively short time of activity and lower physical exertion. For those that have never spent time at elevation the air up here is super thin due to density differences and lack of air you can really get sick, especially if you have a drink or two. At first, It kinda feels like a dull hangover. However, if it progresses, it can lead to complications that are not pretty. If you want to deep dive into these, check out Altitude.org great page explaining what happens and why. Often times, the best remedy is to head back down to lower elevation.
This is also where deep nose breathing and full mouth exhalation from your yoga practice may help… This helps you maximize oxygen absorption and CO2 explosion, respectively. If you are mildly impacted, you don’t have to give up your whole trip… just recognize that it might take some time to start feeling more normal. If you get dizzy, lose appetite, feel nauseous, or have trouble sleeping you might fall into the those more adversely affected. Keep an eye out for your friends too. Just like hypothermia, peoples awareness goes down in this situation. If you see any of the umbles (stumble, mumble, grumble), there could be a situation arising. If you or your friends are not doing great, give up on additional runs and head back down the hill. However, if lips and or fingernails start turning blue, get help immediately.
If you do find yourself in the population affected by altitude sickness, there are ways to get better acclimated to the altitude. A quick remedy is pick up a pressurized can of oxygen or visit an oxygen bar in many mountain communities. Furthermore, there are some over the counter products that help your body with O2 absorption through a mixture that promotes hydration, increased electrolytes, vitamin situation, and a boost from homeopathic herbs. These sorts of work best if you are able to start consuming a few days before and during your visit. We like Alci-mate the best as they taste good, are conveniently added to water. The formula was validated at Western State University in Gunnison, Colorado High Altitude Performace lab. Sitting at 7700 feet, the HAP lab is known nationally as a leading authority on acclimation.
We hope you enjoyed these sessions that have got you in the cold through snowshoeing, familiarized your self with sliding around a bit riding a bike, worked on your flexibility and breathing through yoga, and introduced you to the slopes and altitude through the tubing. We definitely getting much closer to our ultimate goal of skiing or snowboarding. At our next series of sessions, we will cover driving techniques to make it safe to get to the mountains:
- Snow Train, Shuttle, and Public Transporation options
- Vehicle preparation
- Basic driving techniques
- Drifting and other advanced driving
- In the ditch, not what?
I hope you are as excited as we are!
Until next time, pray for snow! Celebrate when Ullr Provides!
*While we tried to pull in as much doctor-reviewed information possible, this blog post should NOT be considered official medical advice. Check with your doctor before heading to higher altitudes. Altitude sickness can be severe to deadly, please seek help as soon as you feel any potential symptoms.
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