GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. - There's somewhat of a craze building on Mount Hood and it has nothing to do with skis or snowboards.
Cosmic tubing - the sport of sailing down a snowy incline on an inner tube while LED lights flash around you and music blasts overhead - has taken Skibowl by storm.
"It's the first of its kind in the world that we know of," said Hans Wipper, Skibowl's operations manager. "We just took the concept and ran with it this year and it has been wildly popular. People are loving it - they are coming out in droves. It's turned into a great big party."
Skibowl first introduced cosmic tubing in 2011 and expanded the program this year.
"We added like probably 300,000 lights or more," said Wipper. "We outlined all our lodges and all our features with these LED lights that change color and go to the beat of the music, along with dozens of colored and black lights that actually light up the tube runs."
The tubing run is at Skibowl East, right next to Multipor Lodge. There is a main run to the right of the lodge that is suitable for all ages and a much steeper run to the left of the lodge for thrill-seekers looking for some speed.
"That was the first one we did," said Robin Deland, who was visiting from Massachusetts and headed up to Mount Hood with friends for a night of fun. "It was a little intimidating at first when you're looking down. It seems really steep, but it's really fun. It's pretty fast, but it wasn't that bad."
Even the main run, which isn't nearly as steep, sends you flying.
"I got going pretty fast," said Anthony Williams, who we caught up with at the bottom of the hill after his first run on the main slope. "And you just kind of hang on because you don't do much steering or anything."
"It's pretty awesome," said a woman named Meredith who was visiting from Hawaii and had just taken her first tube run down the hill. "I've seen snow before but this was my first time tubing."
We caught up to Simanti Lahiri just as she and her toddler were getting ready to go down for their first run."I don't know what to expect because this is my first time," she said.
Lahiri said she normally skis at Meadows and thought snow tubing would be fun for she and her son. By the time they got to the bottom of the hill they were all smiles and ready to go again.
If You've Never Been
There are three types of tubes - singles, doubles and four-person "party tubes."
Ride a single and you'll go down belly down and face first. You have to drag your feet once you start getting close to the bottom of the hill. Miss that step and you might just go flying right through the orange fence.
Ride a double and the person in front plops their bottom into the front hole with their feet out front and the person in back lies down on their stomach so they can use their feet to slow you both down.
The concept is the same for the four-person party tube - the two people in the front sit down and the two people in back ride on their bellies and drag their feet.
Once you get to the bottom of the hill, you pick up your tube and head to the moving walkway to get back up to the top and do it all over again.
At the top, make sure you head all the way to the end of the runs to try the one that flips you around a corner at the bottom. You can easily miss that fun one unless you know it's there.
As far as the advanced run, only single-person tubes are allowed - so don't waste your time trying to drag up a double or party tube (the Skibowl operator at the top will just turn you back around).
There is no moving walkway to get you to the top - you have to hoof it up yourself and it's not easy. If you're not in very good shape, one time up will probably be all you can handle (unless you take a nice, long rest in between).
And if you're afraid of heights, you might be a little alarmed when you get to the top and look down the run for the first time. The drop is significant, but if you keep your cool and start the downward slide, you'll find the adrenaline rush is worth it.
Cosmic Tubing Overview from Mt. Hood Skibowl
If You Go
Cosmic tubing at Skibowl runs Friday and Saturday nights from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and during holidays. There are three sessions (6 p.m. to 9 p.m., 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) or you can tube for the entire time for an additional cost.
- 3-Hour Session - $30 for adults and $25 for juniors
- Open to Close - $35 for adults and $30 for juniors
- For more details
- February 16 - Saturday Night Lights (live DJ and fireworks)
- February 17 - Totally Tubular 80s Night
- March 16 - Saturday Night Lights (live DJ and fireworks)
Mount Hood Skibowl is just over an hour away from Portland. You'll want to check the weather and road reports before you go. And make sure you have chains in your vehicle - they are required this time of year, even if you don't end up using them. You can get a ticket if you get pulled over and aren't carrying them.