Steamboat Springs resident turns backyard into extreme tubing hill
Public tubing options:
While not everyone is lucky enough to know the Jones, good tubing or sledding hills can be found throughout Steamboat Springs.
Commercial tubing at Howelsen Hill was suspended this winter, but tubing is available at the Yee-Haw Tubing Hill at Saddleback Ranch 13 miles west of Steamboat Springs. The ranch offers 90-minute tubing sessions seasonally through the end of March, with transportation provided. Call 970-879-3711 for more information.
Steamboat Springs — A year after moving into their second home north of Steamboat Springs, Gary and Brenda Jones watched as nearly 500 inches of snow covered their land and the steep slopes on either side of their house.
“The year we moved in was 10 years ago, and we had an epic 43 feet of snow,” Gary Jones said. “The back hill was completely covered in willow bushes, but the snow was so deep we were able to sled on top of it.”
Jones knew the snow wouldn’t be as deep as the 2007-08 winter every year, so he spent the summer clearing bushes to improve the steep, long tubing hill.
Over the next decade, he spent summers working on three tubing or sledding runs, using a mini bulldozer and other tools to perfect the runs.
The seasonal residents, who spend part of their year in Florida, have even collected a mini groomer for the runs, and they use a snowmobile with towing sleds to transport riders from the bottom of two runs back up toward the Joneses’ house.
Jones estimates that the longest, two-part run stretches about a third of mile from top to bottom. He said walking from his home up to the top of the highest run takes about 10 minutes and provides great exercise.
While the tubing hill isn’t a commercial operation open to the public, the couple has opened their home, and hills, to friends, neighbors and local groups, including a group from the Holy Name Catholic Church, who visited the extreme tubing hill in February.
“The hill looks huge and people were taken aback when they first saw it,” said Isabelle Yurevitch, a member of the church group and a neighbor of the Joneses.
Among the members of the group, which were all seniors, was Sister Anne Michele Berry, a 74-year-old nun.
“It occurred to me afterward that we, seniors, were given the chance to feel like children again, and it is definitely an exhilarating experience at this stage in our lives,” said Yurevitch, 65.
Jones said he’s enjoyed sharing the tubing hill with others and acknowledged that his creation is above and beyond what most people expect from a backyard tubing hill.
“Compared to a normal tubing run, or all the sledding hills in town, it’s much steeper,” Jones said. “It’s almost the size of a North Carolina ski resort, and it’s in my backyard.”
Jones said the careful grooming of the runs and landing area make the experience safe, but he did say he once clocked a child going 38 miles per hour.
When he returns this summer, Jones said he already has a few ideas to continue to improve the runs for use again next winter, and he knows there will be no shortage of visits from neighbors and friends eager to take another run.
“Everybody that tries it wants to come do it again,” Jones said.
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