I don’t ski, not at all. I don’t even try anymore lest I further cause injury to myself and others. That’s why I was a little dubious as we drove up to the Mount Norquay Ski Resort in Banff, Canada. After all, they’re kind of famous for skiing and there’s no way I was going to be talked into strapping wooden planks to my feet and jumping off a mountain. We weren’t there for the madness that is shushing though, we were there for one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had, snow tubing.
Snow tubing isn’t unique to Banff, you can usually find it at ski resorts around the world. It’s something we’d always wanted to try, but just never had the chance. So when I found out we’d finally be visiting Banff, I knew the experience had to be the first thing we did. As luck would have it, we arrived on the first day the snow tube track was open and we were one of the first on the tube slopes.
We arrived, got our passes, grabbed a sturdy blue tube and walked over to the hill. Instead of a lift, the tubers are hooked into a contraption that pulls the non-skiers uphill, a fun if not slightly debasing way of ascending the icy hill. Not a proper ski hill, the snow tube lanes were still high and long with a layer of ice on top. The speedy courses were perfect for zooming down the mountain at 20 kilometers per hour with nothing between you and the ground but a piece of inflated rubber.
I was nervous at first, I won’t lie. There’s a reason why I hate skiing, I get hurt whenever I try it. Since it seemed that I had even less protection and control over the tube, I was sure that I’d fly off the ramp, into the woods and fuel tales of legendary idiocy for years to come.
The master of the hill was Max, a recently arrived attendant who was laid back and encouraging. Max had just moved to Banff from Ottawa the week before and when I asked why he said, “For this,” pointing all around, “there’s nothing like this place anywhere else. It’s just amazing.” And indeed it was. Banff is one of those places that knows how beautiful it is, but doesn’t flaunt it. There’s a sense of relaxed elegance around town and it’s impossible to visit and not leave without a smile on your face.
Max could see I was nervous though and was patient as he explained the process and answered my ridiculous questions, “No, a bear will not maul you on the way down.” Before I knew it I was off and flying down the massive hill. Not flying really, ricocheting off the sides of the slope is the better way to put it. It was scary but exhilarating and I couldn’t help but laugh and scream as I careened for almost a minute down the slope before crashing into giant foam bunkers at the end of the course.
I just turned 36, but suddenly I was 9 years old, grabbing my sled to head back up the hill to do it all again. And again, and again. I was on an adrenalin high and couldn’t get enough of the tubing experience. It wasn’t the most physically exhaustive of experiences, I mean you sit in a tube, but after 30 minutes I was pleasantly tired with that comfortable feeling of wintery exertion.
We couldn’t stay all night and eventually tore ourselves away to a warmer location to enjoy a proper apres-ski and to recover from the Friday night fun. I know a lot of people love to ski, but for me there’s nothing better than snow-tubing. It’s the best way to enjoy the rush of shushing, without, you know, falling and running into trees and such. Please enjoy this ridiculous video of my tubing experience. It’s better with the sound on, trust me.