Snow Tubing at Loveland Pass
The best life lessons are learned in the wilderness, right?!
Such as “if it makes your heart flutter, do it” + “just huck yourself over the edge + hope for the best”.
These are the life lessons you’ll come upon when you lug a snow tube along the ridge of the Continental Divide trail on Loveland Pass. The guys were up there the week before with pristine conditions — fluffy snow + full coverage. We were not so lucky this time around. Instead of being greeted with a mountain cloaked in fresh snow we were staring down at a rocky, bare slope with patches of snow. This was our launching point. We had two choices — huck our bodies over the edge + hope we’d manage to stay atop our tube or turn back.
The true option was obvious. Over the edge we went. Robb hurled himself down first, clinging to his tube as it bounced between rocky outcroppings. Eventually he hit snow, flew up the bank across the valley + came to a graceful, tumbling stop.
Now it was my turn. He didn’t die, so I’d be fine. Right?! Staring down the steep slope was intimidating, but I put faith in the squish of the tube + leaned forward just enough to belly flop onto my tube as gravity pulled it down the mountain. Robb made the bouncing look fun + exciting. It was not fun + exciting. It was uncontrolled + somewhat terrifying. With no snow to dig my brakes into [brakes = toes or knees] I hit the snowy bottom of the mini valley full speed.
spoiler // it is entirely possible to suck at snow tubing + I’m here to prove it to you
Just before hitting the snow my tube flew off a rocky ledge to hit the snow with a heavy thunk. The snow slowed the tube but didn’t give me any extra control. Rather than take on the upward slope on the other side of the valley with grace I spun around, flew out of my tube + rolled across the ground. Grace is not my middle name, for good reason.
This was just the first stretch of tube-worthy terrain at the top of Loveland Pass. From here we needed to hike along the flat bottom of this mini valley to another bowl off to our left. The crazy wind that had stripped the peaks of their heavy snow cover also hardened all the snow left behind so there was no post-holing. However, this hard snow also made for some interesting navigating along the steeper ridges as it was nearly impossible to stomp our boots into the snow for stability. A short trek later we were at the top of another bowl. This one had far fewer rocks + offered up a less aggressive spill out area just above the treeline.
Once again Robb catapulted himself down the slope first, putting faith in the reliability of gravity + the “human anchor” he’d create by bailing off the tube just before crashing into a rock or tree. I pushed off the edge + down the bowl shortly after. This was the longest stretch of downhill snow tubing on this side of Loveland Pass + we flew! The hard snow did little to slow down the tubes so we had to focus on “steering” with our knees as we skittered down the mountainside.
Up next, the trees! The natural flow of Loveland Pass will eventually drop you out at Rider’s Bend, a corner along Highway 6 with a parking area known as a meeting point for hitchhikers + shuttlers playing on Loveland Pass. Between the top bowls of the pass + the pick up area is a stretch of trees. This is probably the slowest stretch of terrain on a tube + requires a fair bit of navigating. Snow tubes don’t exactly lend themselves to aggressive steering. We compromised with reckless downhill snow tubing followed by a strategic “human anchor”.
Eventually we popped out at the lowest part of Rider’s Bend at the base of a kicker jump. Of course, Robb had to hike up to show off his skills as a front flipping snow tuber. Every day you learn something new. Like how it’s possible to impress people with your front flip snow tubing skills…
Snow tubing on Loveland Pass gets you a little bit of everything — steep drops, open bowls, beautiful views + trees galore. You can get all of this on skis or a snowboard…but the snow tubes will get you more stares + better stories.
A few minutes after popping out on Rider’s Bend a stranger pulls over + offers us a shuttle back up the mountain. I’d like to think it’s because we look friendly + kind. It is more likely that he wanted to hear about what we’re doing in the backcountry with a snow tube. We don’t [can’t!] blame him. Instead we thank him for the ride + head back out to huck our bodies over the edge, again. If we’re going to spend the evening sitting in the hot tub + eating ice cream we’d better earn it with a few more aggressive crashes + strange looks. Or something like that.