Snow tubing at Ski Bowl (on Mt Hood) was on our Pacific Northwest “winter bucket list this year. I’ve heard about tubing for years and thought it sounded fun. But I never made the time to go! So this year with COVID restrictions and other Mt Hood SnoParks being so packed with people on the weekends (cars were even parking on the side of Hwy 26 just to get close to snow!), we decided Ski Bowl might be worth a try. So a couple of weeks ago, we bundled up and headed toward Government Camp to Ski Bowl East. This was the week before a foot of snow was dumped on Portland. I think maybe we finally have gotten our fill of snow this year! Ha!
Tickets & Planning
For 2021 SkiBowl is running as a pre-reservation system for 3 time slots of 1.5 hours. We had to book out about two weeks in advance. The cons of this: you don’t know what the weather is going to be like and if you’re going to want to go that day. The pros? You’re stuck with it! With your money spent and nonrefundable, you’ve basically just paid to ensure that you’re going to get out of the house for a winter adventure!
And let me tell you that if I hadn’t already paid I would have decided the night before to flake out. Ha! I’d already had a busy weekend of a long day hike and biking the lights for the Portland Winter Light Festival. With snow on the forecast, I was really dragging my feet to get up to Ski Bowl for a 11am tubing reservation window. But we made it and it was ridiculously fun!
We left Portland around 9:15am, to give an hour and a half drive time – because snow! and kid! This put us to the Ski Bowl East parking lot around 10:45am. Ski Bowl allows ages three and up (36″ height+) and so we were off to the mountain. Driving was fine, it was just a bit slick to get up the hill in Government Camp since tubing is at SkiBowl East! (West is the parking lot by Mirror Lake Trail hike).
We got there with about 15 minutes to spare to get all our gear on and go print our tickets from the kiosk. Normally, you wouldn’t need such exact planning, but with only 1.5 hours of session time, we didn’t want to waste any of it trying to gear up! Their self-serve ticket system is really great and easy to use. I appreciated the COVID-safe thoughts and planning that went into this! We also bought the $6 SnoPark day use permit at the ticket window since we don’t have the annual pass. And you need them to park on Mt Hood – even in parking lots!
Ski Bowl Tubing
Then we headed to the Tubing hill to pick out our tubes. We got in the conveyer line just as the first tubers were heading down for the opening! So wild and hilarious. I picked a double tube to go with my three year old and we headed up. He didn’t say a word the whole way up and was just taking it all in. Then it was our turn and we were off flying down the hill. The tears started right when we came to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Too fast!! Too fast! Poor little guy. After calming him down, he said he didn’t want to go again. So I guess we paid $25 for a once in a lifetime thrill! Ha!
So we ended up taking turns hanging out with our 3 year old and going tubing. Which was still super fun and a great morning on the mountain. He snacked and played with a little construction truck in the snow. While we took every other run. So really we got about 1 ticket’s use out of the day. :P
Our 1.5 hour tubing window flew by! We got a hot chocolate at the snack stand up outside the lodge and then I took the last ride down. And it was suddenly 12:30p and they sounded the end of the session.
Tubing is a pretty hilarious activity. It’s just plain fun, and you can’t help but laugh at how silly it is to be taking a conveyor belt up a hill. And then gleefully zooming down a hill on a tube. I had so much fun tubing and will definitely go another time. But maybe next time without kids, ha! I would also like to try out the Cosmic Tubing which is a night tubing options.
We’ll wait for another year to try tubing again with our kiddo when he is 4. Obviously all kids are different and it depends on the day, but it was just too fast for him this time. I think it would also help if he was with friends or cousins to see their excitement. But being in the front of a tube speeding down the hill was a bit much for him. I might also bring his snow goggles next time too and that might help too. Another great idea for SkiBowl is if they had a small area designated as a play and practice area for younger kids (like 3-6-ish). I think this would have been a great way to warm him up to the idea of tubing and what to expect!
Where: Ski Bowl East (1-1.5 hours from Portland)
Tickets: 1.5 hours, weekends only $30 adults, $25 kids (3+)
We spent: $91 including the parking pass
Overall, this was a fun (and family-friendly) winter activity. And for the price, it felt reasonable as a special outdoor outing. We’re not spending as much on other entertainment options and dining out in the past year, so we’re budgeting more for adventures and outdoor fun.
Have you tried snow tubing?