Snow tubing is a recreational winter activity that takes place by using an air-filled inner tube, or device that resembles an inner tube, to go downhill at a high rate of speed. It can be done on a normal hill, just like sledding, or it can be done at a ski resort area. As more non-skiers are going to ski resort areas, it makes sense for these areas to offer something they can enjoy outdoors as well. These areas are often referred to as tubing parks.
The skill required for snow tubing in a tubing park is minimal, and there is no steering or stopping required. In some ways, it is like going down a straight water slide in a tube. Tubing runs usually have snow built up along each of the sides to keep the tube in a specific lane. At the end of a hill is a long run out, which gradually brings riders to a stop.
Likewise, there is truly no skill needed for tubing on any snow-covered hill, though there are a few rules that people should keep in mind when not at a ski area. There should be no trees nearby, and there should be a long run out at the bottom for stopping. Unlike some sleds, the ability to control the direction of the tube is minimal. Therefore, if a rider gets into trouble, they may have few options — the most likely of which would be to bail out of the tube before disaster strikes.
There are some variations that make snow tubing a very interesting activity. Some ski areas, for example, offer several lanes. This helps those who want to engage in a downhill race. Because everyone has their own lane and there is no danger of collision, these areas encourage safe racing. This is something that is often discouraged on the ski slopes, outside of organized races. Racing can also be done on other hills, and some may believe the increased chances of collision on these hills is an added benefit.
Though most inner tubes could serve as snow tubes, there are ones that are specifically made for the activity. Some feature materials that are particularly resistant to cold. Many also feature a heavier gauge of material to help avoid punctures on sticks or rocks that may be sticking out of the snow. Most also feature a layer of material over the bottom of the tube, meant to keep the individual rider dry.