14 incredible places to go snow tubing at Tahoe

Snow, snow and so much more snow. Tahoe’s mountain resorts enjoyed record snowfall in January — but you don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy it.  If you have kids or grandkids — or are a child at heart — you can go tubing down groomed chutes, saucer-sliding or sledding at any of dozens of places around the lake.

In the past few years, the options have exploded, especially when it comes to groomed tubing lanes with rope tows or conveyor belts (i.e. “moving carpets”) to get participants to the top of the hill without hiking.

Tahoe boasts plenty of enticements, from disco tubing at Palisades Tahoe to Sugar Rush Tubing at Sugar Bowl, with 10 different types of groomed tubing lanes, a covered moving carpet and an elaborate snow-play area for little ones. More old-school offerings are on tap at smaller resorts such as Granlibakken Tahoe, which has been a snow-play magnet since the 1920s. And Soda Springs goes all out with Planet Kids, featuring a kids’ tubing hill, tube carousel and free-play area.

A covered moving carpet ride takes guests up to the top of the tubing lanes at Sugar Bowl’s new Sugar Rush Tubing venue. (Sugar Bowl Resort) 

Tubing at the most high-end resort venues can be expensive (see below), but there are many ways to have snow fun on a budget. Most resorts offer “snow play” areas for kids under 42 inches tall. At some, you can BYO tube, sled or saucer. Just be aware that you may need to purchase tickets online in advance.

Here’s where to get your slide on in the Lake Tahoe area:

Tubing at a resort

Sugar Bowl: The new Sugar Rush Tubing, located near the Mount Judah base area, offers two-hour tubing sessions for $40 (tubes included) and two-hour snow-play sessions for $20. The 10 tubing lanes are 625 feet long and accessed via a covered magic carpet; work your way from the “green circle” lanes for a warm-up and over to the “black diamond” lanes with rollers. The snow-play area for tykes up to 42-inches tall includes a tubing carousel, mini snowboards and other equipment. Sweet confections to match the theme are available on site. Open Friday-Sunday and during “ski week” (Feb. 20-26); reservations advised. www.sugarbowl.com/tubing

Boreal/Woodward/Soda Springs: The first visible-from-the road resort on Highway 80 (near Donner Summit), Boreal was one of the first to get into family fun in a tubing way. Its three to eight (depending on conditions) TahoeTubing lanes are accessed by moving carpet and open daily, weather permitting. Cost is $54 weekdays, $59 weekends for a 90-minute session; advance reservations required. At sister property Soda Springs Mountain Resort, just six minutes away, Planet Kids and Tube Town cater to non-skiers, new-to-snow families and little kids. Facilities include sleigh-ride transport, kids tubing, a kids ski/snowboard area, a tube carousel and a snow-play area, all accessible with a Mountain Adventure Pass, $54 or $59. rideboreal.com, skisodasprings.com

Donner Ski Ranch: Known as one of the most affordable ski areas in the region, Donner Ski Ranch has tubing hills that are great for kids and adults alike. Tubes are supplied, and there’s a moving carpet to shuttle guests to the top of the hill. Cost is $35 for a two-hour session, or $29 on Old School Days (Tuesdays-Thursdays). donnerskiranch.com

Vail Resorts: You’ll find Northstar’s tubing hill at the Village behind the Overlook Bar, where the family can grab s’mores kits and roast marshmallows around the fire pits. Tubing tickets are $26, a tow lift takes you up the hill and tubers can slide down solo or in daisy chains; northstarcalifornia.com.

The Village at Northstar boasts a tubing hill of its own just behind the Overlook Bar, which serves up cocoa, toddies and s’mores kits.(Vail Resorts/Northstar California Resort) 

In South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly’s 500-foot long tubing hill (with a 65-foot drop), accessed via a covered “magic carpet,” is located near the top of the gondola. Access requires an Epic Pass (epicpass.com) or sightseeing ticket. Regular tubing is $44; mini-tubing (for kids under 42 inches tall) is $32. Equipment provided. Open daily; tickets must be purchased on day of use. skiheavenly.com

Palisades Tahoe: Find this tubing venue in the SnoVentures Activity Zone at the far left side of the main parking lot near the bottom of the Far East lift. A covered magic carpet whisks kids (and adventurous adults!) to the top, where five groomed lanes are available to swoosh down. On some evenings, there’s “disco tubing,” complete with light show and music projected up the slope. Tubing is $42 on weekdays and $52 on weekends and blackout dates for a 55-minute session. Both adult and child-size tubes are provided. No ski boots, please. Ikon Pass-holders slide free on Thursdays.  www.palisadestahoe.com

Sierra-at-Tahoe: Sierra has not only reopened its ski and snowboard operations, it’s also opened its family-friendly Blizzard Mountain tubing, sledding and snow-play venue, located alongside the access road from Highway 50 to the resort. Two lift-accessible tubing lanes (a rope tow latches onto tubes and hauls them to the top of the hill) are available Friday-Monday at $60 to $65 for a 90-minute session. Tubes are included, as is all-day access to the snow-play area where kids can make snowmen, snow angels and slide on a groomed mini-hill (BYO sled or rent/buy one). sierraattahoe.com

Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Blizzard Mountain tubing, sledding and snow-play venue appeals to snow bunnies of all ages. (Sierra-at-Tahoe) 

Tahoe Donner: This quiet residential community near Truckee is known for its cross-country ski center, but it also has a downhill ski area that offers snow-play options including two monitored tubing lanes, six unmonitored sled lanes and a snow play area. No tows up the hill — gotta hike! Open Friday-Sunday. Tickets are $25-$30 (equipment included), but toddlers play free. Online reservations required. tahoedonner.com

Granlibakken Tahoe: This expansive, 73-acre conference center and lodging property on Tahoe’s West Shore is well known for its out-the-door access to hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the Paige Meadows backcountry area.  It also has a sledding hill with two adjacent slopes; a gentle hill for smaller children and a steeper hill that attracts all ages. (BYO sled or saucer; equipment rentals also available.) Fees are $25 on weekdays, $35 on weekends, and lodging guests sled for half price. granlibakken.com

Granlibakken Tahoe has been a snow-play magnet since the 1920s. (Granlibakken Tahoe) 

More sliding venues

Tahoe City Winter Sports Park: This popular park offers snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, ice skating and a sledding hill, all near the shore of Lake Tahoe. Access to the sledding hill (snow saucers provided) is $15. tcpud.org

Adventure Mountain: This private, family-oriented park is a tubing and snow-play mecca on Highway 50 near Echo Summit. Fees ($40 weekdays, $45 weekends and holidays, cash only) are per vehicle  and include parking and snow-play area use. Two-hour tubing sessions are $20 for adults, $15 for kids. sierrasnowplay.com

Hansen’s Snow Tube Hill: On Ski Run Boulevard, between Heavenly Mountain Resort and the lake, Hansen’s charges $40 for a one-hour session, which includes use of a tube or saucer. The 400-foot-long runs are groomed daily, and there’s a trail up the side for hiking back up. hansensresort.com

Spooner Summit Snow Play Area: On the East Shore at the junction of Highways 50 and 58, this play area offers both steep and mellow terrain, but no lifts or restrooms. BYO equipment and remember to take it home! It’s free, but can be crowded on weekends. gotahoenorth.com

California SNO-Parks: Looking for a really good deal for snow play, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or even dog mushing? California’s 18 SNO-Park areas — the majority are in the Tahoe area —  provide cleared parking areas and many options for non-motorized activities. Permits are $15 a day or $40 for the season, available from area vendors; ohv.parks.ca.gov.

Whether you’re experienced or new to the snow, take a look at the Ski California Mountain Safety Guide before you go — find it at safety.skicalifornia.org — and make sure you bundle up in snow boots, insulated snow pants and warm, layered clothing.

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Author: Janet Fullwood