Vail Mountain offers tubing, ski biking, tours
One thing as consistent as Colorado snow is the reality that, when it comes to a ski vacation, everyone has different needs and abilities. Thats even more apparent with a group or a family: Joe skis blacks while Mary snowboards greens and grandma shops while the kids cant get enough of the terrain park.
How, then, other than at meals, can everyone get together to do something as a family?One good answer is at the tubing hill, many of which have sprung up at Colorado ski areas over the past few years. Tubing, one could say, is a little like bowling: You dont have to know much of anything to do it, and just about anyone can give it a go. Unlike bowling, though, there are no gutter balls in tubing, and it may just be the closest thing to a guaranteed good time since the invention of the Ferris wheel.Vail being Vail, the on-mountain tubing hill is large, well-designed, well-run and accompanied by a host of other activities all combined in an area at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola known as Adventure Ridge.The way it works is you buy a ticket good for an hour sessions start on the hour and half-hour beginning at 2:30 p.m. The tube itself is a few steps above your typical store-bought variety. Its a heavy-duty model with two big handles and a long strap. You lie back on the tube and hand the strap to the lift attendant, who attaches it to the surface lift which drags you to the top. Once there, theres a choice of several different lanes, some of which are faster than others. The lanes are self-contained chutes, so theres not much chance of shooting out or crashing.In addition to tubing being pretty much an anyone-can-do it kind of thing, the chutes are large enough that you can go down with two or more tubes locked together by holding onto one anothers handles. The top attendants will also happily start you off with a mighty spin that will have the tube or tubes rotating all the way to the bottom.A couple of things to keep in mind: To tube alone, you have to be at least 36 inches tall, but kids under that size or under age 5 can go down with an adult. Also, because tubing is not a particularly athletic pursuit taking place atop a mountain in winter, be sure to dress warmly, with good boots, hat, gloves and long underwear. Tubing costs $24 for a one-hour session.Other FunTubing is undoubtedly the main event at Adventure Ridge, but there are a couple of other cool things to check out up there as well. One is ski biking, a funny little contraption thats pretty much what it sounds like. The spin is that you start after the regular ski day and ride down with head lamps! Guides are there to show you the ropes and lead you down the mountain.Kids need to be at least 14 and 46 to do the ski bike guided tours. Cost is $65.Tour Times: 4:45 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. To placate the younger kids left out of ski biking, there are mini-snowmobiles for rent up at Adventure Ridge. The Blizzard Speedway is aimed at kids 6-12 and under 110 pounds, and they give them the rush of riding a snowmobile without any parent-frightening speeds.Sessions start every 30 minutes from 2:15-8:15 p.m. Cost is $24 per session.Another fun diversion is snowshoeing at the Nature Discovery Center. The guided hikes are mostly for adults and kids 12 and up and its a way to learn about the natural side of Vail Mountain while getting a pretty good workout. Hikes happen daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. For more info, call 970-479-4675. The Nature Discovery Center is a partnership between Gore Range Natural Science School, Vail Resorts, and the US Forest Service, and the $10 cost benefits the Gore Range Natural Science SchoolKids and kid-spirited adults can also take a bounce on the bungee trampolines at Eagles Nest. Cost is $10 per session.Finishing offWhether youre bouncing, sliding, snowshoeing or just taking in the views, make time for an afternoon snack or early dinner at the mountaintop Blue Moon Restaurant & Bar. Newly remodeled, the Blue Moon has a full bar and an upscale pub-style menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers and entrees. Its tough to beat the views from the Blue Moons many windows, and when youre done, the gondola awaits to zip you back down the hill.Speaking of which, the gondola makes this special corner of the world accessible to anyone including those in wheelchairs. Its a great way to get the experience of being at the top or at least near the top of one of the worlds great mountains without necessarily having to ski down. All ages, all abilities: You could call Adventure Ridge Vails great equalizer.