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May 2010

Going Down the Tubes

Resorts find tubing succeeds year-round.

Written by Rick Kahl | 0 comment

Summer tubing can be both profitable and promotional for winter resorts. As with winter tubing, profit margins are high, labor and equipment costs are low, and the activity appeals to many who are not particularly athletic.

Summer tubing isn’t simply a warm version of snow tubing; without snow, it’s more like going down a slide. Winter tubing is more akin to sledding. Therefore, summer tubing works best as part of a suite of activities, not as a standalone activity.

Artificial surfaces such as Snowflex, Neveplast’s Tubby slope, and Reliable Racing’s SkiTrax are key to making tubing a summer activity. And summer tubing has wide appeal. The Neveplast Tubby surface is used on 400 slopes worldwide, with lengths up to 1,300 feet. One of the first installations in the U.S., at Massanutten, Va., has existed for six years. At 660 feet, it’s one of the longest summer tubing runs in the U.S.

Snow Park Niagara, a year-round tubing operation adjacent to Niagara Falls, and Liberty University both use Snowflex surfaces. Niagara uses it in combination with Snow Magic’s high-temperature snowmaking, while Liberty relies on Snowflex alone.

Slippery Slopes
Massanutten offers dozens of summer activities; it recently built a significant water park. Tubing has become part of the mix. “It’s a great thing for guests,” says president Steve Showalter. Massanutten does 65,000 winter tubing visits and 25,000 in summer. “That’s plenty worthwhile,” Showalter says, since it’s one of dozens of summer activities, and the facility costs are low.

The Tubby surface is durable and easy to maintain. Massanutten lays it down each spring on the same hill used for winter tubing, and removes it each fall. “The surface is fine, we haven’t had to replace any of it,” Showalter says. “It’s an easy product to manage. It comes apart easily and quickly. You have to be diligent when you store it, put it on pallets out of the sun.” The area applies silicone to the tube bottoms to improve gliding, and pressure washes the Tubby surface before storing it in the fall.

Another area that offers summer tubing is Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. President Ben Wilcox says the area did 4,000 visits in its first season last summer after getting a late start on its Tubby run. “We do 36,000 visits in winter, so we’re trying to see if that momentum will carry over to summer,” he says. So far, there hasn’t been a big crossover.

Wilcox believes there could be a bigger crossover from summer to winter, though. “We had a family ask, ‘Is winter tubing this much fun?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s even more fun, because it’s in winter.’ And they said, ‘We would never think to come to a winter resort because we don’t ski and don’t plan to learn how. But we would come to do this, and to shop, if this is how fun it is.’

“This is the future right here—breaking down the barrier to winter and the intimidation factor.

Both Showalter and Wilcox consider summer tubing an economical addition for summer, as the surface costs are quite low. At Massanutten, two 660-foot Tubby lanes from Neveplast cost $90,000 six years ago. Wilcox estimates his cost at $100 per 1-foot by 4-foot section. And that makes summer tubing economically viable, even at lower numbers than areas are used to seeing in winter ops.

Interest in summer is growing. “We put out an end of season flier and included a photo of the Neveplast system with our products; we’ve had numerous calls about pricing,” says Pete Northcutt of Idaho Sewing. “Resorts are looking at it. Our green hard bottom works extremely well on that type of surface.” He also recommends the new Short Stopz for the end of the run.

For areas with tubing hills and existing summer activities, expanding into summer tubing can be an easy move—and one that promotes winter business as well.

Tube Pro 1-866-882-3776

Idaho Sewing (208) 983-0988

Neveplast www. (540) 798 6955

Snowflex (262) 245-6594

Reliable Racing 1-800-274-6815