Let me begin by saying every adult should have an opportunity to return to his or her youth once in a while. Let me also say there is nothing wrong with shrieking with laughter or throwing one’s head back and looking at bright, blue sky and saying unabashedly ” This does not suck.” That was my Saturday. A day full of rich sunshine, dry snow, and people who felt the same way. Arctic Valley Ski Area, usually a mere flash of light upon locals’ radar, has now achieved AKontheGO status of “Uber-Cool.” Now, ladies and gentleman, they have a tubing park.
If your mother was like my mother, she fretted and fussed and was sure one of us budding daredevils would break a neck, or worse, whenever the mammoth, black truck tires made an appearance on a snowy day. Mom would try all sorts of sledding options in their place, but nothing could ever cancel out the thrill of a bouncing, bumping, absolutely insane ride aboard a steerless doughnut of rubber. It was worth risking home restrictions for life to climb in, shove off, and scream at the top of my lungs.
The greater Anchorage area previously had but one “official” tubing park; that of Hillberg Ski Area on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Our family had to beg and plead with military friends to accompany them, so when the call came from Rich Todd of the Anchorage Ski Club, operators/owners of Arctic Valley Ski Area, I held my breath. Could it be true?
Arctic Valley has been trying to get their new tube park off the ground for a few years; permitting issues, weather, and logistics of the site itself held up the process. But finally, two weeks ago, the old Alyeska tows started up with a growl, tubes sporting the Arctic Valley logo were filled and placed in the “corral,” and it began.
Three tubing “lanes” are provided for sliding enthusiasts, and although they are not marked as of yet (might be a good idea), the southernmost is slower and more appropriate for smaller kids or those who don’t want such a fast experience. The middle and northernmost lanes don’t look like they’d give up much speed, but boy, do they deliver, especially after a few runs. Don’t believe me? Check out my awesome video below:
Since Arctic Valley is primarily a day-use area (no night skiing as of yet), two sessions are available for tubers; 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and 1-3 p.m., for a rate of $12/session. Since the layout is such that everyone is using tubes and the space, it makes sense to charge the same rate, and since AV is a mostly-volunteer organization, I’m happy to contribute if it means the park will stay open. Two hours is plenty for most kids; ours was pooped by the end of our afternoon session and could barely plop his body down at the tow.
Children are indeed welcome to tube; a number of smaller tubes are available, but do take heed: Inner tubes are incredibly fast and do not have any means of steering. Children who tube on their own should have the ability to a) follow directions from lift operators or mountain staff, and b) understand they must stay in their tube until they do a quick look uphill to make sure no one else is coming down. We observed a few parents holding on to their child’s tube on the way down, this slowed things considerably and helped with unloading at the bottom, too. There are no formal age restrictions. Use your judgment.
Helmets are strongly recommended (by me), as are the absence of scarves, hats with strings, and long hair. Tubers are pulled uphill by a rope tow, and anything with strings could be potentially hazardous. The lift ops are great, however, and do a super job of instructing folks on how to ride up and/or down.
Done riding? Head over to Alpenglow Lodge for a recharge and some incredible views of the Anchorage Bowl and surrounding mountain ranges. The lodge offers fabulous food and both cold and hot beverages, and upstairs, parents, there is a lovely little pub serving Alaskan-brewed beer and wine. Never crowded, definitely not fancy, both the lodge and pub are great spaces for kids to mingle and run about in their own space (there’s even a kids’ corner downstairs), and parents to sit back, relax, and take in the absolutely mellow atmosphere Arctic Valley so skillfully provides. I felt like I was in my own living room-it was that cool.
Driving was easier than I thought. Well-plowed and maintained by both the military and Arctic Valley folks, the road was, in fact, in better condition than during the bumpy, dusty summer months. All-wheel drive vehicles should have no problem navigating, but front-wheel might struggle on a snowy day. Carry a shovel and/or chains if you’ve got ’em, the sign recommends, and I’d follow that advice if the weather is nasty.
Oh, and the view? Simply stunning, especially when the sun began its descent around 4 p.m. As if we needed another reason to drive up here. As if.