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Countdown for tubing is on

Tube park set to open Friday



Standing at the top looking down I have an irresistible urge to step back a few paces, take a running leap and throw myself on a tube.

A brand new green tube rests in my hands and it’s crying out for a trial run.

I restrain myself.

The new Coca-Cola Tube Park isn’t ready for me yet. But it will be shortly.

It’s Tuesday and the countdown for opening day is on. Six snow guns are blasting out snow to cover at least two tubing lanes for Friday’s grand opening of the park.

There is still a lot of work to be done.

The two lanes, which will open on Friday, must be carved out for tubers. Flags must be installed and the safety net is still to be put up at the bottom.

But Tabetha Boot, Whistler-Blackcomb’s senior public relations officer, assures me it will be ready in time.

By the time the holiday season is in full swing, Whistler-Blackcomb is hoping to have all the lanes open.

Tubers will be able to choose between six or seven lanes. Some will be milder green lanes. For those looking for an extra kick, there will be moderate blue lanes, and for the true thrill seekers there will be black lanes.

Those black lanes will be steeper with higher banks on either side and some corners too. Like a mini-Olympic luge track.

That’s fitting symmetry as the 2010 bobsled/luge track, which will hurtle athletes down the ice at more than 100 kilometres an hour, is just a walk away, also carved out of the natural terrain on Blackcomb Mountain.

The tube park stretches 1,000 feet down the mountain, next to Parking Lot 8. It will be open seven days a week and will stay open long after the mountains close in the afternoon. Tubers will be flying down at night under the lights and to tunes that will play over the loudspeakers.

"The introduction of the Tube Park will enhance the resort’s family friendly offerings and will provide a new outdoor activity option after the lifts close," said Stuart Rempel, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

From Sunday to Wednesday the park will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. From Thursday to Saturday and throughout the holidays, the hours of operation will be extended an extra hour to 9 p.m.

Ticket prices are based on an hourly rate. Tickets for children up to 12 years old will cost $10 for one hour or $14 for two hours. Youth and seniors are $12 and $19 respectively, and adults are $15 and $24.

"We’ve done a lot of analysis into the pricing," said Christina Moore, public relations and communications manager. She said the company reviewed pricing at 15 different tube parks across North America, from Cypress Mountain to Vail.

"Basically where we’ve ended up is pretty much in the middle of what is being offered out there," she added.

The studies show most guests only tube for about one hour and that’s why Whistler-Blackcomb chose to charge by the hour. They estimate most guests will get about four to six rides throughout that time.

"We believe it’s a fair price," said Moore. "It is one of the lowest priced winter activities that exists in the resort."

Whistler-Blackcomb is offering discounts for season’s pass holders. There will be 50 per cent off for season’s pass holders and 25 per cent for Edge Card holders.

Earlier this season there was a website family offer, allowing kids to stay, ski and tube for free. Moore said those kinds of promotions will be offered throughout the winter.

Whistler-Blackcomb is making the tube park area a little more family friendly too for spectators. There will be a station for snacks, a fire pit, dog sled rides and a spectator/play area for kids who are too young for tubing. There will be a height restriction, which has yet to be determined, for some of the younger tubers.

The park opens at 10 a.m. on Friday. It will be open until March 31. Take the Excalibur Gondola to Base 2. Follow a lit stroll through the trees. Buy a ticket, grab a tube. Ride the carpet style lift to the top. And get ready to slide.