Once January hits, you’ve got to bring on your A-game – especially if you live in a winter destination as I do. It’s not so much the cold (though that can be a drag), it’s the reduced daylight hours that can put me in a funk. Layer that with rigid resolutions you’re struggling with and this time of year can be oh-so glum. Luckily for all of us, I found a brilliant solution to get spirits up and hearts racing. And you don’t have to be even remotely athletic! Mount Norquay tubing is the answer to winter blahs.
Mt. Norquay is a popular ski resort in Banff National Park. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from Banff townsite and as an added bonus, you can usually spot big horned sheep grazing by the side of the road. It’s fantastic for families, couples looking to for a fun date and in my case: teens. Norquay tubing is the ultimate teen activity.
Over the holidays, one of my daughter’s friends joined us for a few days in the mountains. Did cabin fever set in after day two? You bet it did. We tried all the activities – skating, skiing, etc… but a certain skill level is required for these activities, and if kids aren’t at the same level, well, it just ain’t as fun for them. Tubing, however, is a totally accessible way to experience the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park.
So off we trotted to Mt. Noquay one frigid afternoon. The Huz and I scored tickets ourselves, as we didn’t want the kids having all the fun. The girls immediately took off and whizzed down the tube lanes on their own. There were seven tube-lanes open and while they looked pretty similar, some are steeper than others, some have more bumps, etc… You’ll want to try them all.
It was such a cold day though. I thought I’d do one – maybe two runs, then go and warm up with a hot chocolate inside the North American Lodge. Also, it was super busy. Naturally we choose a weekend over the holidays to tube. Despite the weather and the crowds, I was… fine. I managed three runs in a row without dashing inside to warm up my toes. Even though it was super busy, the lines were moving quickly. At worst, we waited maybe 5-minutes max in line. That’s it. The tube park can handle a lot of people.
It was actually a ton of fun. There was such a festive vibe going on with music pumping, families laughing and playground equipment next to the tube park for added alfresco fun. But nothing compares to whooshing down the mountain on a specially-made snow tube. We’d race each other, see how many spins we could get in and who could get the farthest down the track (heavier peeps win!). Best was linking our tubes together for the ultimate ride. We were only a group of four tubes, but I saw one group that had seven tubes linked together!
Night tubing in Banff
As exhilarating as tubing in Banff is, it can be amped up if you do it at night. Tubing closes everyday at 4pm, but on Friday nights (and Saturdays beginning January 12, 2019) it reopens at 5pm, so you can barrel down the hill under the night sky until 9pm. Don’t worry, it’s not pitch black. They’ll have lights to make it atmospheric.
Mt. Norquay is closest spot to town for tubing in Banff. If you’re not sure if it’s your thing, go the last hour – from 3 to 4pm and you’ll score $10 off the ticket price. I thought I’d wimp out after an hour, but I ended up going hard for two full hours. I would’ve gone longer, but the tube hill was closing and we had night skiing to sort out. (More on that later….)
Age and height restrictions for Mt. Norquay tubing
What’s great about tubing at Mt. Norquay is that anyone can do it. There’s no skill level required. If your grandparent doesn’t have a heart condition, they could totally do it. You don’t even have to climb up the hill. There’s a magic carpet towing system that whisks you up to the top of the peak. Wee-ones need to be four-years old, but the big requirement is that they’re at least 42 inches tall. And it’s not like staff are checking birth certificates….
Night skiing at Mt. Norquay
After our tubing adventure, we made a beeline for the Cascade Lodge. We needed food and warm drinks (the boozy kind for us adults) before tackling night skiing. I was thrilled to find mulled wine on the menu and a burger with kimchi and smoked bacon. After a quick bite and sorting our rentals on-site, we were off to hit the slopes a different way.
Night skiing at Norquay runs on Friday and Saturday nights and that’s another awesome activity for dates or letting kids run loose. There’s only the Cascade chairlift open, so you know the littles aren’t going to get lost… There’s a few different runs off that chairlift and the terrain park is fully lit. The terrain park is decent, too. It’s home to the Bow Valley Freestyle Team. Parents can stay inside the Cascade Lodge and sip fancy hot chocolate if they don’t feel like joining the ankle biters.
Good to know
- Enjoy discounts the last hour of tubing each day.
- Night tubing runs Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday night tubing begins January 12, 2019.
- No helmets are required. Just wear warm winter gear.
- The North American Lodge has a small cafeteria, but if you’re a foodie, you’ll want to eat at either the Lone Pine Bistro on the 2nd floor of Cascade Lodge or take the gondola up to Cliff House Bistro.
- Combine tubing with a sightseeing ticket – that gives you access up the gondola to the aforementioned Cliff House Bistro. They have amazing cocktails and local craft beer there. And gorditas!
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Have you ever tried snow tubing? What’s your favourite winter activity?