~Waiting for the scarf to drop~
Ready! Set! Go! With the drop of a woolen scarf, three generations of family are whooshing down the snowy hill in a hilarious race to the bottom. Hoots and hollers ring out from every passenger as the tubes reach the bottom of the hill and whirl into the straightaway. Some judge the race by speed, some by distance, and some by style, but everyone feels like a winner as we tumble out of our vehicles and climb to the top of the hill to do it all over again.
Old Fashioned Tubing at the Nordic Center
The Nordic Center at Keystone Resort offers a different, and perhaps more serene, look at winter sports and exploration than the typical mountain views of the slopes. Nine miles of groomed trails invite snowshoeing and cross country skiing across pristine hills of glistening snow. These hills are also perfect for an old fashioned sledding experience. It’s exactly the type of throwback fun you would expect neighborhood kids to have in the park on a snow day, only we’re a family from Texas and this is our first time snow tubing together.
There are two options for tubing at Keystone Resort. Adventure Point at the top of Dercum Mountain is a flashier, faster, and more expensive option, but for our group of little kids and big kids, parents and grandparents, the tubing experience at the Nordic Center is ideal. Rentals can be purchased at $16 per tube for one hour or $20 per tube for two hours. There is not a per person fee, so as long as we are happy to share, it is a much more economical option for a larger family. There are no height restrictions- appreciated by the littlest participants, and there is never a line-appreciated by all. Even during the holiday rush, we are often the only people on the hill.
~Making the climb~
It is a no-frills kind of hill, slide down and climb up. The climb is the one drawback of the experience, as we flatlanders from Texas wheeze and whine in the altitude. However, the trudge to the top does make it easier to share, as there are always as many people resting from the climb as there are people zipping to the bottom. Like all good things, the effort somehow makes the experience all the sweeter. There is bonding that happens over the huffing and puffing.
Before long, experimentation gives way to freestyling. Although the rules state that tubing should be done properly seated in the tube, we can’t resist a belly flop or two. In between runs, there is time just to sit and play. There is room for snow angels and piles of snow for pseudo-snowball fights. There is also time for quiet conversation and connection. In fact, the whole experience is peacefully silent, save the punctuated whoops as another tube disappears over the peak. I imagine the scene is much like a photograph from the past on a snowy day before television and hand held video games. For a family that is staunchly plugged in, the vintage memory is a gift.
~Just taking a quick rest~
Last One to the Bottom is a Rotten Egg
At the halfway point, the thrills of the descent and the wheezing of the ascent give way to refreshment. Irrespective of age, we tumble into the cozy Nordic Center lodge like a hoard of schoolchildren and order up hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies all around. In keeping with the homey vibe, a grandmotherly “cookie lady” presents cookies as big as a saucer, and piles on the whipped cream extra thick.
~Soup Bistro at the Nordic Center~
Mingling with the freshly baked cookie smell is the hint of delicious hot soups bubbling in the kitchen in preparation for lunch. The all you can eat soup buffet is $11 per person- an ideal choice for large families with snow tubing hungry boys to feed.
~Last One to the Bottom Wins~
With cookie crumbs in the corners of our mouths, and whipped cream mustaches we tumble out the door again, all giggles and puffy overstuffed layers. The older kids carry the weight of the tubes for the younger ones, as we all try to avoid the hidden snowdrifts that sink up to our knees. There is laughter when someone sinks deeply into the snow, and even more laughter as the unlucky party tries to dislodge from the snow. Interrupting the peals of laughter, a teasing sound of “Race you to the bottom” rings out. And we are off again.