No less than nine Heartland ski areas are celebrating significant milestones this year. All have been in business at least 60 years and one started 85 years ago, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
The Midwest has 116 ski areas scattered across the Heartland and just under half of them offer snow tubing, especially across the lower Midwest. It’s relatively safe, and something easy to do. Just sit and let gravity do the work.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) is offering a White Gold Card that allows you to ski or snowboard a full day at 33 Michigan ski areas, and Skiing Wisconsin offers a coupon book allowing you a day at 17 participating Badger State ski areas. It keeps your lift ticket cost for the day to around $8.
Speeding down the track in a tube at Keystone. (Keystone/Facebook)
Ski and snowboard resorts across the country continue to up the ante for activities beyond hitting the slopes – and tubing is a growing staple at many of them.
Tubing centers typically sprout up near the base area and utilizing beginner lifts like conveyors – though there’s a few up on the hill.
Most have height and age minimums, charge per session (two hours typical), offer group rates, and sometimes require viewing ticket. Often there’s a warming hut with food and drink nearby; lighted, after-dark tubing common.
Keystone puts tubing hill at top of gondola with top-of-the-continent views. Park has six lanes, conveyor lift, and is open after dark during evening ski-snowboard hours.
Tubing at Soda Springs Mountain Resort ramps up to 20 lanes and a 400-ft surface lift. The curious but not brave can buy a pedestrian ticket to watch.
Highlight at Mount Hood SkiBowl’s tubing park is Cosmic Tubing with lane lighting, laser shows and music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting at 5 p.m. on lift-served kiddie and hike-up extreme hills.
At Summit at Snoqualmie, tubers’ best option is to buy two-hour tickets in advance online and show up early. Eight-lane tubing hill is 550 feet long with 40-foot drop, located across from Summit Central.
Upstate New York’s Hunter Mountain boasts biggest park – 20 chutes 1,000 feet long served by conveyor. Overlapping two-hour sessions up capacity on weekends.
Another with after-dark tubing is Killington, which runs Fridays and Saturdays (plus holidays) until 7 p.m.
Night owls will love Boston Mills-Brandywine in northeast Ohio. The Polar Blast goes till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
For Wisconsin’s largest, head to Sunburst Ski Area in Wisconsin, with its 40 lanes and two conveyors.
Terry Peak, South Dakota, opened in 1936, and celebrates 80 years this year. It opened the same year as Sun Valley in the west and Bromley Mountain in the east, both credited with kicking off the North American ski resort industry. Terry Peak, with a 1,100-foot vertical drop, largest in the Heartland, offers true mountain skiing. Located in the Black Hills, it tops out near 7,000 feet.
Wisconsin ski areas were busy this past summer enhancing the experience for guests this coming season. Snowmaking upgrades topped the improvement lists, but there were also terrain park expansions, new runs, new lifts and improved beginner areas.
Little Switzerland has added a new high-speed rope tow in their terrain parks and expanded both their large and small parks. They also cleared a new trail called Easy Cheesey, which will be the easiest way down the hill. Snowmaking capacity was increased with the addition new fan guns.
Nordic Mountain, always one of the first to be fully open in the Badger State, once again added more snowmaking firepower and cleared a new winding, intermediate run called MeNords. They feel it will become one of their most popular once discovered.
Camp 10 increase both the capacity and efficiency of their snowmaking system, which they feel will allow them to open earlier in the season.
Alpine Valley, in the southern part of the state, tripled the size of the beginner area complete with four magic carpet lifts and added a new chairlift on their First Adventure beginner run.
Wilmot Valley, added over 5,000 feet of new high-pressure pipe and two new snow blowers between chairlifts 3 and 8 to increase and improve snowmaking efforts. They also added new LED lighting on five of their runs, overhauled chairlifts, and spruced up the day lodge.
Tyrol Basin improved their beginner terrain and added a new magic carpet lift for the upcoming season.
Sunburst’s Tubing Park was named as one of the Top 10 Tubing destinations in the nation recently by USA Today. They offer 42 lanes, two magic carpet lifts and speeds up to 42 mph cruising down the hill. Hold your breath.
Photos: Top -- Tyrol Basin made summer improvements (Tyrol Basin/Facebook); Right -- Alpine Valley triples beginner area (Alpine Valley/Facebook); Below -- Little Switzerland adds fan guns, new trail (Little Switzerland/Facebook).
The popular Skiing Wisconsin coupon book is still available in limited numbers and can be ordered online for $125. There are only about 280 left at press time, and the ski season isn’t far away. It’s perfect for the skier or rider that likes to visit numerous areas.
Midwest snowboarders, get your shred on. The eighth annual So-Gnar Snowboard Camp Tour is hitting seven Heartland ski areas over the next few weeks. Five of the stops are scheduled over the holidays. The popular camps frequently fill up, don’t delay signing up.
The popular ski area between Madison and Milwaukee, Sunburst, where thousands of Badger-staters learned to ski and ride over the years, has been sold. The area was founded in 1961.
Wisconsin ski areas are offering midweek incentives to entice Badger State skiers and riders to the slopes and conditions couldn’t be better.
Get your shred on, Midwest snowboarders. The seventh annual SO-GNAR Snowboard Camp Tour is hitting seven Heartland ski areas over the next few weeks. Five of the stops are scheduled over the holidays.
Many ski resorts across the Midwest were able to open this past weekend, even as far south as southern Indiana where Perfect North Slopes was open.