Keystone opens tubing – on snow |

Keystone opens tubing – on snow

Kimberly Nicoletti
Keystone, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/ Mark FoxHeather Nordquist, left, and Kate Coble, show their enthusiasm while taking a run on the Keystone Tubing Hill Thursday. Keystone opened the tubing hill Friday, with hopes of keeping it open until the 4th of July.

KEYSTONE, Colorado –Keystone Resort opened the tubing hill Friday and will continue the cool and slippery fun for as long as it can – Keystone hopes to keep it open through the Fourth of July weekend and beyond, said spokesperson Kate Coble. The tubing hill debut coincides with the summer’s mountain biking and hiking activities, which began Friday when lift ops cranked up the gondola.

The scene is surreal: Keystone employees wear blue Hawaiian shirts and crank tunes as they hurl thrill-seekers down two snow-carved lanes. With each slushy step to the magic carpet belt, which totes tubers back up the hill through a space-age-looking, domed Plexiglas tunnel, shoes sink into the soft snow. And if you happen to wear sandals, beware: Your toes will soon be frozen at the same time your scalp feels like it’s burning.

Tubers average about five to eight runs in an hour, though one particularly pushy little boy holds the record for most laps – 12, to be exact – but he continually ran and cut in line last winter, which everyone knows is a nasty behavior. Groups of two, three and four can link up and slide down the hill, or individuals can ask for a bit of a spin and ride down themselves.

Winter in summer

Matt Hoover, night operations manager at Adventure Point Tubing Hill, has been transporting snow from the Spring Dipper trail to the top of the mountain, where winter tubing takes place, for the last two weeks. He built up a 25- to 30-foot heap, which could actually be seen from an airplane – no joke. After he made the pile, he just happened to take a plane to Vegas – and he saw the frozen mound from the air.

Since Monday, Hoover has been working day and night, catching just a few hours of sleep here and there in the yurt at the top of the mountain, to create two tubing lanes. He’s hoarding enough snow to rebuild the lanes so they remain bright white; currently his base is 6-7 feet deep.

“It’s my art,” Hoover said Thursday, as he showed off his creation to local media. “Snow’s just a fun medium. Usually this time of year, I’m throwing hay bails and revegetating grass.”

But his art started out a little too slick; when he tested the carved lanes by putting 75 pounds of weight on a tube and sending it down, it flew well past the long run out, into the fence. And so he tweaked it, until anyone could rush down the slippery slope and stop well before the flat run-out ends.

Those who want faster rides should show up first thing in the morning, when the snow is still a little harder and icy. But even in the sun-baked afternoon, the slope is steep enough to force a scream, or at least a big smile, out of anybody. As Heather Nordquist, Keystone events planner, said: It makes you giggle like a little kid.

Now all Keystone needs to do is figure out how to conserve some snow for skiing summer steeps.

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