Want 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. (Find more sledding options here.)
How to ensure a great tubing day
We've learned over the years that a little planning makes the experience much more enjoyable. We no longer drag home miserable wet, cold, hungry children.
- 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.
- Consider bringing helmets for each person to wear while tubing.
- Reserve tickets in advance online, as a group, to ensure your session time and save a few bucks, too. (Sessions often sell out.) You can pick the tickets up at the ticket booth. 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.
- You need to fill out a liability release. To save time, print it and fill it out at home turn it in at the ticket booth, when you pick up your tickets.
- Use the restroom located at the ticket booth – there are no facilities on the tubing hill.
- Once you get to the hill, you're off! Grab an available inner tube and zip down to the bottom. Note that you may not use your own inner tubes or sleds.
- 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 30 of your friends and their kids, you'll be able to reserve a specific two-hour time at a discount of $1 per ticket and get one free ticket for every 30 tickets you buy. Once you get your group together, go to the Summit's website to order.
And for those looking for a big splurge, you can “buy out” a session for groups of 50 or more for select times and then your group will have exclusive access to the tubing center for a private three-hour session, any day Monday through Thursday.
Tips for taking young kids tubing at Snoqualmie Pass
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 incline 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. And if you have grandparents in your party who would rather watch than tube, they can get a viewing ticket for just $5, which allows them to hang on the hill with your group.
Consider reserving tickets for 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.
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.
If you go ...
Where: The Tubing Center is an easy one-hour drive from Seattle when I-90 is clear. 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."
Weather: Check reports at the Summit, and WSDOT's Snoqualmie Pass report for road conditions. If there is snow or ice on I-90, bring chains if you don't have snow tires.
Hours: 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. Check the schedule online for “Summit Central” to confirm.
Tickets: Tickets are $17–$22, depending on the session. Prices include tubes. Children 5 and under are $5. Group tickets (for 30 or more) are $1 off. Active duty military personal and veterans also receive a 10 percent discount off the regular tubing ticket rates. Summit season passholders only $5.
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.
Where to eat: Hot beverages and snacks are available at the small cafe above the ticket booth and at the new nearby Silver Fir Lodge, a day lodge offering a large seating area and a variety of options for $7-$12, including burgers, Ivar’s clam chowder, mac and cheese and spicy chicken lettuce wraps. Or for more variety and to save money, plan to eat in nearby North Bend, less than a 30-minute drive away on I-90 back toward Seattle, where many family-friendly restaurants are available and options include pizza, BBQ, a bakery and Twede's Cafe, made famous by the Twin Peaks television series.
Photos: Courtesy of the Summit at Snoqualmie
This article was originally published in 2007 and updated in 2014.