What is snowtubing?: Sledding on inflated inner tubes has been around a long time. Modern lift serviced snowtubing first became popular in Canada and has more recently gained popularity in the United States. It has become a favorite wintertime activity as no special skills are required and it appeals to all age groups. Snowtubing has been adopted as an alternative activity at many ski areas as it only requires a small slope and makes use of existing snowmaking, grooming, and base facility equipment and infrastructure.
What is your lift like?: At Eaton Mountain we use a handle tow, also sometimes known as a Pony Lift, Mitey Mite, or wire rope tow. Our snowtubes have a leash with a rubber ring that hooks onto a plastic handle. You sit on your tube and the tube is pulled to the top by its leash. Lifts your might see at other tube parks are giant conveyor belts, T-bars, or rope tows. If you snowtubed at Eaton Mountain prior to 2010, our current lift is completely new: no more holding on to an icy twisting rope. All lifts in Maine are designed by engineers, independently inspected each year, and are licensed with the state.
Why do you limit your attendance?: Two major reasons. Although we like to sell as many tickets as possible, we make safety and the experience of our customers a top priority. Our tube park is very compact in design and we need to minimize congestion. We also want our customers to know that when they purchase a ticket they will be able to take a large number of runs and not spend the whole time standing in line.
How fast is snowtubing and How do I go faster?: The speed of your run depends on several factors....when the hill is running fast, speeds are probably in the 20 mph range.
1) Weather and daylight: When temperatures are below freezing the hill is as fast as we can safely manage and our snowgroomer is used to purposely slow the runs down. Temperatures above freezing or quickly falling fresh snow make the hill run slower. Once the sun goes behind Eaton Mt, temperatures can suddenly drop making things faster.
2) Equipment: The smoother the bottom of the tube and more full of air it is, the faster it will go.
3) Technique: Spreading your weight as flat and even across the surface of tube will give more speed. Of course, pushes and running starts are also positive contributors.
4) Size: Contrary to the laws of theoretical physics, size does play a role in your speed when snowtubing. Larger individuals will have more momentum and will have an easier time cutting through loose and uneven snow. Forming trains with other tubers will generally give you more speed. 5) Slope shape: Given the nature of gravity in our world, the fastest downhill route between two points is a curved path steep at the start and gradually tapering. For 2013-14 we have built a "snout" at the top of the hill to give this more ideal shape for use when temps are warm and hill is running slower.
Do make snow?: Yes. Lots of it!
How does it work?: Water is pumped under high pressure through a network of pipe and hose to the snow guns. There are several types of snowmakers, we primarily use fan guns. A small amount of water is mixed with compressed air to form nuclei- tiny ice particles and the start of snowflakes. A bank of nozzles sprays water onto the nuclei to bulk them up. A large fan disperses the snow and gives it hangtime to dry up. We generally look for temperatures in the low 20's to start making snow, humidity is also a major factor. Five to ten degrees on a clear night with very little wind is most ideal. Our man-made snow is 2 to 3 times more dense than natural snow and therefore lasts much longer and grooms out better. Our pump system can deliver 650 gallons per minute at 450 pounds per square inch through over a mile of piping.The white color of manmade snow is a completely natural phenomenon- no bleach or other chemicals required! Some areas, especially those with very clean water (city water systems or wells) put additives into their water: essentially dirt or detergent to facilitate nuclei formation. Our water comes from two large holding ponds and does not require the use of additives.
Do you allow trains?: Yes, tubers can form trains with others for the downhill ride. The maximum size for trains depends on the speed of the hill and the hill attendant's discretion. Our 2010-11 season record was 44 in one train (4 across x 11 deep)!
Do you have double tubes?: No. We used to have a few, but found them to be too hard on our lift's handles. Again, trains are allowed for those who want to "buddy-up".
Can more than one person ride up the lift together?: In general no, however, very small children (~5 yrs and under) may ride on the lap on a parent, a ticket and liability waiver is still required for both.
Do you have a height or age restriction?: No, we welcome all ages and sizes.
How big is the run?: Our tube runs are about 500 feet long and drop about 60 vertical feet. We try to run with three chutes, depending on how much snow we have.
Why don't you offer two for ones and other major discounts?: It is our pricing philosophy to keep our regular rates as low as possible, to treat all customers fairly, and to keep our pricing structure simple. We do not play games of inflating list prices and then offering "discounts" here and there. We do offer some price breaks for groups and 10-packs of tickets sold/arranged in advance.
Can I go snowtubing in the summer?: Yes, but not yet at Eaton Mountain. Some tube parks cover their chutes with plastic mats that mimic a snow surface and actually have summer tubing. If you insist on real snow, try flying to Argentina, Chile, Australia, or New Zealand on the other side of the Equator. You might be able to find a North American operation high on a mountain glacier out west, or you might be able to find an indoor park in a place like Dubai (they do have downhill skiing).