We’ve officially kicked-off our full summer operations here at Heavenly. It’s an exciting time for us, but it also means there’s also a lot of work to be done to get ready. One of the more interesting projects associated with preparing for the summer is the installation of our summer tubing hill; a 500’-long downhill track specifically built for tubing without snow or water. To get some insight, I recently caught up with Julie, the assistant manager of our Adventure Peak activities AKA the Mayor of Tube Town.
Q: First off…there’s no snow or water, what makes the tube slide on the surface?
A: We use a material called Neverplast which is a synthetic carpet material specially designed to stimulate the slippery properties of snow. It is often used on artificial ski slopes when natural snow is out of the question. The material is pretty amazing, imagine millions of caterpillars laying upside down and moving their legs to push your tube down the hill; that is the effect that Neverplast has.
Q: What steps do you take to prepare the surface for installation?
A: The process really begins at the end of the winter season. The snow cats groom the snow surface around the winter tubing area in order to even out the snow level, allowing for a quicker and more even melting process. Once the snow is melted, it’s time to bring in the back loader to even out the dirt surface where we plan to place the lanes. Now we’re ready to lay the track.
Q: Tell us about the different components used in the system.
A: First, there is a white fabric material that we lay down between the track and the ground to protect the track from dirt. Then the bumpers and framing are laid down in five-foot sections, supported by four-foot wide steel crossbeams. Finally, the green “glider” surface is laid on top of the frame and then the finished track is anchored to the ground using large, industrial-strength screws.
Q: How long does it take to install the lanes? How many people are involved in the set-up?
A: The installation takes about seven full days and, despite the size of the project, we have a crew of only five. The installation process is a delicate one with a lot of moving parts, so we’ve found that it’s easier to limit our team to a small, experienced group of workers.
Q: After the lanes are installed, what steps do you take to test them for functionality and safety?
A: We not only test the tracks after installation, but we test them each morning before we open the mountain to guests. Our crew walks up and down the hill inspecting the track assuring the screws are in place and that everything is flush and level. Once that passes inspection, it’s time to tube! We take three runs down the track and check the speed. If the track is running too fast (often the case when wet or unseasonably cold conditions exist), we implement decel mats made of a carpet-like material on the down slope. If the track is running a little slow, we lay down a sliding agent that acts as a lubricant between the tubes and the glider surface.
Voila! Now that you know all about how our tubing hill works…it’s time to get out there and test it out! The tubing hill is located at the top of the gondola and operates every day from 10:30am-4:00pm, it’s $10 for three runs and children must be 42 inches or taller to ride. A gondola ticket is required to access all Adventure Peak activities. Let the games begin!
~ Margo Stoney