Tubing at Snoqualmie Pass: Downhill Thrills for Kids
Written by Kathleen F. Miller
The holidays have passed and you've endured weeks of Seattle's cold, gray, wet winter. Your children have cabin fever and you'd like to make some magical memories in the snow before spring arrives. Time to grab your whole family and head up to the Summit at Snoqualmie to hurtle down the hills at the Summit Tubing Area.
My family and I have been joining a group of friends at the Tubing Area (formerly the Snowflake Tubing Center) for several years now. It's a great way for us to get our children, ranging from toddlers to teens, to play together. Flying down the hills on inner tubes also allows us all to scream our heads off and lets the adults feel like kids again for a couple of hours.
We've learned over the years that a little planning makes the experience much more enjoyable. We no longer drag home miserable wet, cold children, as we bring a change of clothes -- including dry socks -- for everyone. We dress warmly and in layers as if we were going skiing. Packing a thermos with a hot beverage and a snack is also a good idea as the kids turn into ravenous snow monsters on the slopes. And we reserve in advance, as a group, to ensure our session time and save a few bucks, too.
When you arrive, head to the ticket booth to get your group's tickets, then make your way over to the tubing hills. (Now's the time to use the restroom.) You'll get a ticket to hang on your coat zipper -- similar to a lift ticket -- which Summit employees check as guests enter the tubing area. Once you get to the hill, you're off! Grab an available inner tube and zip down to the bottom.
You have a choice of two hills to play on: The larger hill boasts 10 to 12 groomed lanes, while a smaller hill offers four to six lanes. You can take the surface tow back to the top once you've tubed down, although many adults prefer the workout of hiking back up on their own power.
Going tubing as a group
The best way to visit the Snoqualmie Pass tubing center is as part of a group. If you can gather 20 of your friends and their kids, you'll be able to reserve a specific two-hour time at a discount of $2 per ticket. Once you get your group together, go to the Summit's website to order.
If you want to visit with a group smaller than 20, you can buy individual tickets at the tubing center for that day's sessions. You do run the risk of sessions being sold out during popular times, however. Since you don't want to be faced with a sell-out after getting the kids pumped up to tube, tricking them out in snow clothes and making the drive to the pass, make sure you arrive early for your chosen time. You can also sometimes -- although not always -- purchase individual tickets through the Web site, so log on before you head up.
While the Summit does not impose an age limit on kids using the tubing hill, it recommends that children be older than 3 since younger ones may find the hill inclines and tube speeds scary. Children under the height of 42 inches may ride with another youth of the same size or with an adult, which may be more appealing to timid kids.
Taking younger kids tubing at Snoqualmie Pass
Families with young children often prefer the first session of the day, which runs from 9-11 a.m. on Fridays and weekends. You'll be the first group out on the snow, it tends to be the least crowded session, and you'll have time to eat lunch together afterward. Hot beverages and snacks are available at the small cafe above the ticket booth. The dining area is rather crowded, though, so it's best to plan lunch in nearby North Bend, where many family friendly restaurants are available (including Twede's Cafe, made famous by the "Twin Peaks" television series).
For children under age 6, two hours is a long time to be in the cold and they tire easily from all the fun. Consider heading back early even if your session hasn't finished to avoid a tired-toddler meltdown in the snow. If you leave while they're still having fun, you'll set the stage for many more fabulous family outings at the tubing hill.
Sammamish-based writer Kathleen F. Miller contributes regularly to ParentMap.
Planning ahead for a Snoqualmie Pass tubing trip:
Where: The Tubing Center is an easy one-hour drive from Seattle when I-90 is clear. If there is snow or ice on I-90, consider bringing chains if you don't have snow tires. To get to the Summit's Snowflake Tubing Center, take I-90 eastbound to exit 53. Follow the signs from the off ramp to Summit Central. The tubing area is located in the Southeast Central Main Parking Lot. You'll see a sign that reads "Summit Tubing Area."
When: The Tubing Center is open Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sundays and holidays 9 a.m.-5:45 p.m. It's open midweek only on holidays and other school closure days.
How much: Tickets are $16-$21, depending on the session. Prices include tubes. Children 5 and under are $5. Group tickets are $2 off.
Dress: For a safe and comfortable experience, dress in layers (a snug-fitting layer next to the skin to wick away moisture, a roomy insulating layer and a shell and pants to protect against moisture and wind) and don't forget the hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. For more tips on dressing for snow play, visit winterfeelsgood.com.