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Visitors flock to new tube park

Weekend
Jan. 30, 2013 @ 07:14 PM

DAVIS, W.Va. —  Achia Brockington has worn a path between hospitals and home as her 6-year-old daughter Shydae Brown battles Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

But Martin Luther King, Jr., Weekend, the little lady with a bright pink snow suit and million dollar smile got to go down a carefree country road less traveled — the wild, wonderful snowtubing lanes of snowy West Virginia.

Along with Brockington’s fiancé, Alex Johnson, and other friends in the Special Love group from D.C., the Baltimore family were some of the many people who got to try out the brand new snowtubing park at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.
“It has been a trial and a devastating experience dealing with her illness so seeing her so full of life has been great,”

Brockington said. “We left all the stress and are trying to just enjoy life. We don’t have to worry about it and all the back and forth to the hospitals. This clears your mind.”

Although not all dressed as stylish as Shydae, kids of all ages, even ones with gray hair, have been enjoying the two-hour tubing sessions at Canaan’s Tube Park that opened Friday, Jan. 11.

On MLK Weekend hundreds of folks drove up the hill to the new tubing area that has a 1,200-feet-long run that now has five open lanes but which has space for up to 10 lanes.

Unlike tubing and sledding at home, there’s no slogging your sled back up the hill through a foot-deep snow while warming up means gathering around the outside plaza fire ring or stepping inside the massive stone 1,000-square-foot warming station that features a fireplace, lounge areas, bathrooms and a concession stand.

With a panoramic view of Canaan Valley, tubers travel up a Boardwalk conveyor belt or Magic Carpet while scanning the view that included MLK Weekend being able to watch skiers carving powder Canaan, as well as a group of horseback riders from Timberline Stables making their way through the woods.

On his way back up to the top, New Hampshire native Josh Morrison, 32, who now lives in Elkins, said being out playing in the snow was something they had been craving this winter.

“It’s definitely a blast, and it’s extra handy for us,” said Morrison, who was out with a group of 14 folks from the First United Methodist youth group. “We’re from New Hampshire so we’re used to the snow and being out in the winter. This year, we’ve not gotten much snow and we’ve talked to our family in New Hampshire and they’re not having no snow at all either. Coming over for tubing is something that everyone can do and it’s fun for everyone — even the 32-year-olds. We all like it.”

That youth group —  with kids as young as Morrison’s 7-year-old daughter Katie and as old as, well all the adults in the group, is typical of tubing parks where folks of all ages unlock their inner child.

Elkins resident, Robert White said that while his wife, a school teacher, and kids have been tubing, he was always working and had never gotten to go — until just a few weekends ago.

You could say he was hooked on the feeling.

With the two-hour time slot waning, there was time for one last ride and White wasn’t hanging out at the fire ring or inside the warming station.

Nope, he grabbed his tube rope and led the charge over to the conveyor-belt lift with his family and a slew of friends who decided to caravan over for a family fun day at the tubing park.

White was still laughing about his tube flipping over when he was doing a three-tube-train ride down with his daughter Ashley and wife, Jessica.

“I almost made it to the end — then my tube flipped over,” White said laughing. “I never thought a 54-year-old man would have fun like this but we’ve all had a blast. I’m really glad we came here to do this. It’s a nice thing for families to do together.”
Creating that holistic experience for families is important for all West Virginia’s downhill ski resorts, said Terry Pfeiffer, president of the West Virginia Ski Area Association.

No one would know better than Pfeiffer, who is president at Winterplace, which opened West Virginia’s largest snow tubing park in 1997-1998 and continues to be a huge draw for the resort, located just minutes south of Beckley and just off of I-77.

Pfeiffer said it’s like the best of backyard sledding since there’s a warm lodge at the bottom of the hill complete with a fireplace, hot chocolate and food and two Magic Carpet lifts to take your tube back to the top.

“When we were all kids we went out sledding and you’d sled down those long hills and then guess what, you had to lug your sled back up,” Pfeiffer said. “We have two Super Carpet lifts so you get to do it over and over again.”

While skiing and snowboarding are still the main draws at Winterplace, Pfeiffer said having substantial tubing parks at Winterplace, Snowshoe (Silver Creek) and Canaan Valley helps everyone in on the winter fun.

“We all want to make it a great experience for everyone who comes to our resorts,” Pfeiffer said. “As far as a family experience it’s really great because everybody really can do it, great grandmas and great grandpas, grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads and kids. It really is something for everybody.”

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