Pine Valley tubing hill opens to enthusiastic reception
It would have been a perfect run for 9-year-old Cambria Sundquist, if her boot hadn't fallen off toward the bottom of the tubing hill Friday afternoon. As Sundquist struggled to stand up without plunging her foot - now clad only in a sock - in th...
It would have been a perfect run for 9-year-old Cambria Sundquist, if her boot hadn't fallen off toward the bottom of the tubing hill Friday afternoon. As Sundquist struggled to stand up without plunging her foot - now clad only in a sock - in the snow, Grandma Faye Groth came to the rescue, trudging partway up the hill to retrieve the boot.
Sundquist was one of nearly 250 people who made their way to Pine Valley to go tubing last weekend, according to Community Education Director Ruth Reeves. Friday was the first day the city's tubing hill at Pine Valley had been open this year and happened to coincide with a four-day weekend for Cloquet students.
"We were starting to wonder if we would be able to open this year, but the snow came just in time," Reeves said. "And it looks like there's a little more snow coming this Friday, so this weekend should be another good one for tubing."
Like the swimming pond in Pinehurst Park, the city owns and maintains the tubing hill at Pine Valley, but contracts with Community Education to operate the facility. Those who want to use the facility pay $5 for a pass to use the city-owned sliding tubes and tow rope for the day. Two runs offer folks a choice between easy and more adventurous. Kids and adults can head to the chalet to warm up by the fire between runs, or sip hot chocolate and enjoy other concessions for sale. If they're lucky, they might even see some ski jumping while they're there.
Snowboarders can also buy a pass for the tow rope and use the terrain park created by volunteers on a run adjacent to the tubing hills. A snowboard terrain park consists of a variety of jumps, rails, down bars and jibs for the snowboarders to use for stunts and other tricks on the way down the slope.
Weather permitting, Reeves said the city plans to have the tubing hill and tow rope open and operating from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through March 17, with another Friday opening March 8 because some area schools will be out that day. The tubing hill is not open when temperatures are below zero, she said, explaining that staff will also consider factors such as wind chill when making the determination whether to open the hill.
The weather plays a huge role in the success of the tubing hill, said City Streets and Parks Supervisor Les Peterson, noting that the hill was closed all last winter because of a lack of snow.
While the city does own a small snow gun that it used earlier this year to help cover bare spots on the cross country ski trails at Pine Valley, it doesn't have a machine large enough to create snow cover on the tubing hill when the weather doesn't cooperate.
"If we did have that type of equipment, it would certainly make [opening the hill] less dependent on Mother Nature," he said, adding that the rain that fell on top of the snow earlier this season prevented the tubing hill from opening any earlier this year.
Better late than never.
While there were a couple minor injuries on the tubing hills over the weekend - from people tumbling out of their sliding tubes or landing hard on the packed snow - by all accounts, the weekend was a success.
Cloquet's Walter Eakman, 14, gave it a thumbs up as he raced down the hill after his sister, Patrice, and Sundquist, who is a neighbor.
"Walter wants to come every day this weekend," his mom, Annie McBride, said with a chuckle.
If conditions seem questionable for opening, people can call the chalet at 218-879-8682 to find out. Pine Valley is located off of Highway 33 in Cloquet. Near McDonalds, turn south on Armory Road and then turn left on Olympic Drive. To get to Pine Valley Park, keep driving past the hockey arena parking lot. Pay inside the chalet which is next to the ski jump.
Tubing enthusiasts are asked to stay off the ski jumping hills as those have been groomed for the jumpers.