These tips from our snow tubing outing will help you get the most out of tubing at Ski Butternut.
1. Save Time: Before you leave home, print out copies of the Ski Butternut Tubing Release and Assumption of Risk Agreement and complete them in the warm comfort of your home or car, rather than at the Tubing Center ticket window.
2. Arrive Early: Ski Butternut's tubing facility opens at 10 a.m. on most weekends and holidays. We visited on a fair weather Saturday, and when we arrived at 11:30 a.m., not only was it difficult to find parking near the Tubing Center, there were no snow tubes available. Lines to obtain tubes were even longer when we left at 2:30 p.m.
3. Get Your Tube First: We joined many other visitors in making the mistake of queuing up at the ticket window, where we expected snow tubers would return their tubes as their two-hour time slots expired. Wrong. On busy days, you need to be aggressive on arrival and wait at the bottom of the tubing hill to get your hands on snow tubes as they become available. Unfortunately, staff at Ski Butternut was very ineffective at communicating this procedure and ill-equipped to manage the crowd, and they were surly to boot when customers asked questions about the process.
4. Bundle Up: Jackets, scarves, hats and gloves are a must, even on a seemingly warm day. Snow pants, however, aren't really necessary: I wore jeans and didn't really get wet. It was in the mid-40s when we left Connecticut, but it was distinctly cooler at Ski Butternut, plus, the ride down the tubing hill is quite a chilly thrill. That said, we felt coldest during the hour we spent standing around waiting to acquire tubes.
5. Consider a Helmet: While helmets are not required, they may be a good idea, especially for younger children. While there are no formal age requirements for snow tubing at Butternut, children must be able to comfortably and safely ride in their own tubes: They are not allowed to ride on a parent or other adult's lap. We brought our seven-year-old daughter's bicycle helmet along just in case but didn't feel she needed to wear it once we saw the facility. During our two-hour session, we didn't observe any wipeouts or dangerous activity. You know your children best, however, and might want to consider a helmet, particularly for their first tubing experience.
6. Go Before You Go: The facilities near Butternut's Tubing Center are limited to porta-potties (brr!), so you may want to use restrooms elsewhere, such as at the Lower Lodge, before you head for the tubing hill.
7. Bring Cash: You can use a credit card to pay for your tubing tickets ($18 per person for a two-hour session as of 2011), but it's still a good idea to have a few bucks on you. There's no place near the Tubing Center at Ski Butternut to duck inside and warm up, so when your kids start clamoring for snacks, which are sold at the ticketing building, you'll want to be able to pull out a few dollars.
8. Be Prepared to Climb: One of the beauties of tubing at Ski Butternut is that the handle lift makes it easy to ride back up the hill in your tube between runs. That said, the tubing lift isn't the speediest thing in the world, and on busy days, a long line forms. If you want to maximize your tubing time, you'll probably find yourself trudging up the hill—instead of riding—most of the time.
9. Hold On to Your Tube: When you reach the top of the tubing hill, place your tube's tow strap inside the tube, then be sure to hold onto the handles as you push off. At Ski Butternut, we were really impressed by how well visitors respected the rules, particularly waiting in line and allowing the person in front to reach the bottom of the hill before starting out. You also need to hold onto your tube between runs: Don't walk away from it, even for a moment, or someone who's been waiting for a tube is liable to grab it.
10. Go Faster: My first run down the tubing hill took my breath away, but after that initial exhilaration, the experience was sheer fun: not scary at all. If you're an adrenaline junkie, you'll find that the lanes in the shade to the far left of the hill as you look up are fastest. And here's another speed tip: Lift your bottom up out of your tube, and you'll have more momentum.