By Kenosha Area CVB’s Meridith Jumisko
Mother Nature doesn’t need to supply the snow at Wilmot Mountain. And visitors to the Mountain don’t need to be skiers or snowboarders to enjoy the great outdoors. Snow tubing is a new attraction here, and no skill or experience is necessary to climb in the tube, sit, and enjoy the exhilarating ride down. Or, you may opt to climb on board and go down head first! NOTE: this is not your neighborhood sledding hill. This is sledding to the extreme. At a place that knows a thing or two about winter sports, making snow, and pleasing families and children of ALL ages.
While Wilmot Mountain opened in 1938, the separate Snow Tubing Area just opened in January 2012. The area features over 1,000 feet of multiple tubing lanes and a state-of-the-art covered people mover conveyor lift.
Fellow Kenosha Area CVB staffer Laura Tyunaitis and I needed to see for ourselves just what this snow tubing is all about! Rain showers earlier in the day on our drive to work in Downtown Kenosha didn’t deter us from venturing west to the white mountain top that beckoned to us. Both the white of the skiing and snowboarding area, and the white of the snow tubing area stood out from the otherwise brown landscape of this unusually mild Wisconsin winter.
Upon entering the parking lot of the new area, the first thing that caught our eye was the brand new Lodge currently under construction. While the bathrooms are open now, the rest of the building is not quite ready for use yet. It will eventually house the ticket sales, food and beverage services, rental items, banquet facilities and more! Seating will be on two levels – the second floor will overlook the bar and food counter. It will also feature a large outdoor sun deck. Both helmets and boots are available to rent.
Wilmot Mountain’s Ryan Church was our guide for our behind-the-scenes tour. He explained the conveyor lift came from Austria, and when company representatives visited Wilmot, they noted it was the largest snow tubing area they had seen. We learned that while daytime speeds can reach 38 mph, nighttime speeds can reach as high as 50!!! Think about driving in the confines of your car, with your seat belt on. Now compare that to flying down a steep incline in a tube with the wind in your face! Now that’s a thrilling ride!
Upon first seeing the tubes, I was excited to see what appeared to be a seat belt. But alas, it was the tow belt. (There is some towing involved, to get from the bottom of the hill to the conveyor lift.) If you’re scared of heights, you may not want to look down as you prepare your descent. It looks like a very big drop. And as it ends up, it feels like a very big drop too!
We ask, will there be spins involved? Gulp, there will! We want an exit strategy – a way to tip ourselves out to stop it. Yet that probably isn’t feasible or advisable, when going so fast. The first time down: a total rush (as is each time after that). We just didn’t know what to expect.
Not much of a rollercoaster-rider myself, Laura compared the experience on the hill to the anticipation of climbing up the structure of a rollercoaster and then the pure adrenaline rush of the first drop! On both the smooth and terrain tubing hills, the initial drop is a bit intimidating and your stomach jumps to your throat! (Laura said you don’t feel the dip from the hill as much when you go into “Penguin Mode” and head down face first riding on the tube on your tummy.)
It may have been a bonus for me to go most of the way down backwards (not intentionally). Perhaps it was less scary, or NOT. I couldn’t see the steep drop-off point coming- you know, the one I mentioned earlier where our tummies flipped. I was just going with the flow, or with the wind, in this case. It was a windy day! Definitely an adrenaline rush - as I rushed by the snow making machines along the conveyor lift. We learned that you go so fast at night, carpets are set out at the end of the runs to stop you (We were glad we didn’t have to use those!)
We never tumbled out. No spills. No wipeouts. Not even on the lanes with rollers (the non-smooth lanes). Not even on the conveyor lift. Stepping on the lift with the tube is a challenge at first. But cool, no need to climb the mountain. You just step onto the conveyor belt, it’s covered from the elements, and up, up, and away you go!
According to Ryan, snow tubing is recommended for ages 4 and up. It’s at parents’ discretion though, really. A Snow Tubing Kiddie Hill, recommended for ages 2 - 4 years old, is open at times. There is a waiver to sign to go snow tubing, with parents needing to sign it for minors.
The two most physically taxing times are the short hike uphill from the Lodge to the starting point, and the walk from where your momentum runs out on the bottom to the conveyor lift. Otherwise, gravity, the snow, the wind, and the conveyor lift do the rest for you. After you arrive back to the top, you start all over again!
And don’t forget, Wilmot makes its own snow. The Snow Tubing Area should remain open into March. We visited on a balmy 42 degree day in February, so don’t let the warm temperatures keep you away! Visit www.wilmotmountain.com for hours, rates, the snow report, the waiver, and more details. It’s the place to go for forwards, backwards, and sideways fun all winter long!!
Now that we are professional Snow Tubing Masters, we look back and realize our fears were silly. This is a thrilling ride for sure, but more fun than we could have ever imagined.
As experienced February 21, 2012