Our Family’s End of the Year Adventure: Snow-tubing!

Even during the winter, New England offers a variety of activities for families to enjoy. You just have to have thick skin or very warm clothes.  This last weekend in 2016, our family decided to head out to the ski slopes in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, not to ski ~ oh, no…that’s just too dangerous for this crazy family right now.  Instead, hubby had a bucket list item of going snow-tubing with the boys while we still lived here in the Northeast, so that’s exactly what we did.  We went snow-tubing on New Year’s Eve!

Okay, let me clarify a little.  I personally did not go tubing.  Hubby and our three boys did.  I did, however, enjoy taking a few pictures, posting them on social media and then warming up in the heated tent at the bottom of the slopes.  I had perfect view of my crew, so it was well worth tagging along on this adventure.

About the Location

Ski Ward Ski Area is located in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, just above Worcester and about one hour west of Boston.   Ski Ward boasts up to eight lanes for snow-tubing, two lifts and over 200 tubes.  Anyone participating in this particular activity must be at least six years of age AND 42″ tall.  Yes, the website does emphasize the word “AND.”   Weekday rates can be purchased in one or two hour increments and the hours of operation are limited to four hours in the afternoon.  The rates for weekdays are $15 (one hour) and $20 (two hours).  On the weekends, holidays and during school vacations, the hours of operations are expanded to last the majority of the day, starting at 10 AM.  The difference is that the two hour increment is the only time span offered and costs $28 per participant.

NOTE: Discounts are offered to military personnel (Active, 50%; Retired, Reserves and Active National Guard, 20%).  Military dependents and Seniors are able to take advantage of a 10% discount on the above costs. Click here for more ticket information.

The ski area also offers nine ski trails, as well as four lifts, a rental shop and a snow school. During our visit, we saw two ski slopes active and a set of lessons being taught on a shorter slope (those little guys on skis were SOOOO cute and the instructors extremely encouraging / supportive!).  Far to the left of those is a set of four slopes, all used for tubing.  Our two hour block was set for 10 AM to 12 PM and it was fairly quiet when we first arrived.  We even had about ten minutes to spare once we reached the tubing hills.  This simply  allowed for the staff member to pull out the tubes from the big storage shed and run down the rules with the two families present, ours being one of them.

Just as an FYI ~ there is a snack area, called the Slopeside Bar & Grill, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner during the winter months and lunch and dinner during the summer months.  There are a variety of appetizer and sandwich options that include such plates as nachos or coconut shrimp to pulled pork sandwiches and fish & chips.  There is also a kid’s menu which includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese and chicken fingers.  The drink menu does include beer and wine, along with soft drinks, and there is an ice cream menu as the facility does offer summer activities.   As this is Massachusetts (a state that actually has laws and regulations regarding food allergy awareness in restaurants), there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the menu that asks individuals with food allergies to please notify the server prior to ordering.  This at least signifies that there is someone on the premises aware of how to prepare foods for customers with food allergies.  Oh – and most importantly?  They serve Starbucks.   Oh, yeah…Starbucks.

For further menu review, click here.

Our experience

We arrived early and were able to purchase lift tickets ahead of time.  The boys suited up (which was a comedy routine in itself) and we casually made our way over to the last set of slopes on the property.

By arriving earlier in our allotted time frame, the boys had opportunity to enjoy a few runs without lines once they were able to begin tubing.  They were hooked into the lift at the bottom and their tube was pulled up the hill, where they would have to jump off their tube in order to allow for the staff member at the top to unhook it from the line and hand it back for use.  From there, they would choose which hill they wanted to ride and wait their turn.  As noted above, there was initially no wait and the boys were enjoying run after run. By the end of the first hour, however, the crowds began to grow a bit and the boys said the lines went from no wait to five minutes, ultimately having to wait 15 minutes once they had reached the top before they were permitted to slide down the hill.  Unlike Walt Disney World, however, there are no interactive queues to keep them entertained and, in the cold, 15 minutes seems quite long.  By the end of the two hours, they were ready to call it a day.  I can’t imagine how long the waits would feel like on a busy day!

The boys said the snow was good, packed well and allowed for some good runs. There were moments where the tubes would drag, but that was not often and nobody got stuck on a hill.  The staff at Ski Ward was courteous, assisting and very patient.  They were rather accommodating when the boys wanted to line up for a race (really, boys?).  The weather was perfect and, overall, we all had a great time.

Oh, I almost forgot!  Ski Ward Ski Area also offers opportunities for birthday parties and group gatherings. They have heated tents for these events and, as the boys played, I was able to enjoy one of them as no event was taking place at the time.  Inside, there are tables set up and a heater blasting, but the temperature was perfect.  I was toasty and comfortable without sweating or overheating.

HUGE NOTE!!!!  One of the things that caught my eye on one of the party tents was THIS sign:

Now, food allergy friends – wouldn’t something like this put a huge smile on your face?  It certainly did mine!  Unfortunately, we live a little over an hour away and would likely not have opportunity to take advantage of this, but I’m glad this is in place for other food allergy families that live in this area!

Would we recommend

When I asked the boys (including the big one) their thoughts on whether or not they would recommend this place for snow-tubing to other families, they said that the hills were fun, but definitely designed to accommodate families with younger children.  They offered no jumps, bumps or high speed runs, but the boys also said it was definitely worth the trip and a memory they will hold forever ~ this from my ten, thirteen, sixteen and forty-something year old sliders.

So, if you live in the central Massachusetts area, or are visiting,  and wish to enjoy some safe winter fun, check out Ski Ward Ski Area.  It made for a memorable and fun way to end the year for our crazy little family of five.

Have you been snow-tubing?  What other winter activities does your family enjoy and recommend to others?

~ T.M. Brown

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