6 thrills and chills: Snow tubing fun around Chicago

“These three things belong together: kids and hills and snowy weather.” – Bobbi Katz

This picturesque line gets it just about right. Add snow tubes to the list and it reads pure and simple winter bliss for kids of all ages.

Snowtubing has increased in popularity in recent years; so much so that many ski resorts have built separate tubing parks on their premises. One of the primary reasons for the surge in interest is accessibility.

“It’s great because tubing doesn’t require any special skills like snowboarding or skiing; anyone can do it,” says Ed Meyer, general manager of Snowstar Winter Sports Park.

If you go, dress in layers and wear regular winter boots (ski boots are not allowed). Speeds on the fabric-covered tubes can reach 40 mph or more, so as with any winter sport, it’s good to exercise caution.

Meyer says most accidents tend to happen at the bottom of the hill. His advice: “Get to the bottom and get out of the way!”

Whether you’re looking to spend a couple of hours, a day, or even an overnight, we know six good places to go.

Snowstar Winter Sports Park

Distance from Chicago: 3 hours

9500 126th Street W.

Andalusia, Ill.

(309) 798-2666

Opened for the season Dec. 26. Stargazer Tube Hill has six lanes with a 68-foot vertical drop and a Magic Carpet conveyer lift. Tubing is available every day Dec. 26-Jan. 4, and on weekends and holidays after that. Rates start at $20 for two hours with evening discounts. Kids under 6 must be accompanied by an adult. Its website has a list of area hotels with package deals.

Sunburst Winter Sports Park

Distance from Chicago: 2¼ hours

8355 Prospect Drive

Kewaskum, Wis.

(262) 626-8404

It claims to be the largest tubing park in the world, and with 45 lanes, that’s not hard to believe. Newly expanded, the lanes are a quarter mile in length with a nearly 100-foot vertical drop. It offers tubing Tuesday-Thursday evenings ($18 unlimited). Cost is $18 for two hours Friday-Monday and on holidays. Minimum height of 42 inches recommended. Call for up-to-date conditions.

Timber Ridge

Distance from Chicago: 2¼ hours

7500 23½ St.

Gobles, Mich.

(800) 285-6525

Tube down three 800-foot lanes on weekends and holidays. The cost is $20 for two hours. Riders must be at least 5 and 42 inches tall. Call the snow phone for up-to-date information on conditions.

Wilmot Mountain

Distance from Chicago: 1¼ hours

11931 Fox River Road

Wilmot, Wis.

(262) 862-2301

Offers 22 lanes that are 1,000 feet long and two conveyer lifts. The lanes are best for ages 5 and up; a special kiddie hill is available for the younger ones. Open seven days a week. Tubing is $25 unlimited, Monday-Thursday; $30 for two hours on weekends and holidays.

Villa Olivia

Distance from Chicago: 45 minutes

1401 W. Lake St.

Bartlett, Ill.

(630) 540-4199

The resort offers two tubing lanes and a Magic Carpet conveyer lift. It hopes to add one or two more lanes this season. Children 4-6 must be accompanied by an adult; kids under 4 not allowed. Open weekends. Cost is $20 for two hours in the daytime, $17 in the evening. Call the snow phone for conditions.

Blackwell Forest Preserve/Mt. Hoy

Distance from Chicago: 45 minutes

Blackwell Forest Preserve Mount Hoy

Warrenville, Ill.

(630) 871-6422

Thrill down 800-foot Mt. Hoy on tubes rented at the base of the hill for $5 (cash only). Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and school holidays, December through February when there is at least 3 inches of snow. Only forest preserve tubes are allowed. There isn’t a warming house, although an outside bonfire is often burning. Riders walk back to the top of the hill; this is tubing the old-fashioned way. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and enjoy the best deal around. Call for hours and snow conditions.

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