Forget gravity. Inner tubes, snowy slopes await

Melinda Mawdsley, left, films her tandem ride down the tubing hill at Powderhorn Mountain Resort with Rachel Sauer.

Perhaps Jacques Costeau didn’t spend much time on an inner tube. Perhaps he should have.

In March 1960, he told Time magazine, “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

Jacques, my good man, I would suggest that man has only to plop his butt in an inner tube and receive a good push from Melinda Mawdsley and he (or she) is free. And it doesn’t hurt if this push is preceded by a reasonable amount of strategizing on how to add spin to the forward and downward momentum.

A good layer of snow helps, too.

So, we were at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, Melinda and I, atop the gentle slope of the tubing hill. It had been a good 17 years since I’d been tubing, even more for Melinda. My hazy memories of it included some fairly significant crashes with other tubers and snow in my underwear. I was never entirely sure how it got there.

It was time, we decided. And Powderhorn has this wonderful hill, open Friday through Sunday, that you don’t even have to walk up. Yes! There’s a tow line that pulls you, seated in your tube, up the hill!

Needless to say, we live in magical, miraculous times.

My previous tubing experiences involved those few brilliant, transcendent seconds down the hill when liftoff seemed imminent, then the snow-logged trudge back up the hill. By the end of the session, with my underwear and socks inexplicably filled with snow, it began to feel like the Bataan Tubing March.

So, when I asked Melinda where we were going to get our tubes for the excursion, she raised a sardonic eyebrow. Oh, it is to laugh! Silly Rachel.

For a $12, two-hour tubing session, Powderhorn provides the tubes. And the ride up the hill. And groomed snow. And, on the Thursday afternoon we went, the excellent Scott Washkowiak and Clay Urban, to make sure everything was copacetic.

Which… yes. Yes, it was.

I mean, the tow up the hill is a delight, a contemplative time to look at the blue, blue sky and the contrasting white aspen, to stare at the people on the ski lift overhead, and to not think about much of anything beyond the whole expanse of the universe. I could do that all day long.

Then, we were standing at the top, considering the slope before us. It was gentle and wide, no obstructions, no chance of careening into a ditch (not that I would know anything about this), only the potential for a good ride. I offered to give Melinda a push, so she settled in with feet pointing downward.

How long had it been since I’d gotten a running start on snow and given someone a push? How long since I’d mentally twisted my invisible mustache and thought, “heh heh heh”? The years melted away.

An acceleration, a heave-ho and a face plant (by me) and an away-we-go shriek (by Melinda) and she was sailing down the hill. I followed more conservatively, sitting in the tube, digging my heels into the snow and jerking forward to the brink of the hill and then down, down, down.

Is there greater freedom than this, than racing through the freezing air, the world a blur, on the very cusp of flight? There is very little control on a tube. It wanted to spin, and so I spun. I could have dragged my feet, I guess, but what I really wanted was to go even faster.

Clay had placed a big, yellow poof of crash pad at the bottom of the run, and into that I plowed. I am considering getting one for my living room.

The only thing to do was jump up and race over to the tow line. Again!

Melinda and I got fancy, making running leaps onto our tubes and zooming head-first down the hill. We went down in tandem, clutching the handles on each other’s tubes. Melinda suggested a tricky maneuver involving a last-minute in-air twist so we would land backward in our tubes. This, as you might imagine, didn’t work out at all and we went sprawling and shrieking down the hill.

Gravity? What gravity? We were 10 years old, and we were the fastest, most joyful things on snow.

Get going: The Powderhorn Mountain Resort tubing hill is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday for two-hour tubing sessions. Each session is $12 for adults and $10 for children ages 13 and younger. Tubers must be at least 36 inches tall. For information, go to or call 970-268-5700, ext. 2100.


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