Little Slednecks

The full-face helmets add a serious cool factor to kids' snowmobiling at Vail.

The full-face helmets add a serious cool factor to kids’ snowmobiling at Vail. Photo: Helen Olsson

A day at Vail’s Adventure Ridge with pint-sized adrenaline junkies means snowmobiling, ziplining, and tubing.

Half a dozen kids, some as young as seven and all less than 100 pounds, sat straddling snowmobiles at Vail. Each had on a pint-sized but burly looking full-face helmet. The fellow in charge was giving a safety talk.

“You see that red button?” he asked them.

They all nodded, helmets bobbing.

Don’t touch it!!” It wasn’t an eject button or anything, but it would kill the engine.

He also gave them directions in the event of a crash.

“Have you ever seen a crash?” one of the kids asked, worry in his voice.

“Every day.”

Mostly kids thread the track handily...until they crash.

Mostly kids thread the track handily…until they crash. Photo credit: Helen Olsson

At Vail’s Adventure Ridge, high on the mountain, kids can zipline over the slopes, tube down a set of tubing lanes, snowmobile, bungee trampoline, ski bike, and snowshoe. My kids and I rode the gondola from Lionshead at Vail to Adventure Ridge a few weeks ago for a little R&R. (Revving and ripping.)

To be clear, these snowmobiles are for the smallest of kids. My 10-year-old, 92-pound son barely fit on the machine. His knees were all scrunched up. The snowmachines were the perfect size for my 7-year-old daughter, who is barely 50 pounds. The snowmobiles are powered by lawn mower engines, but otherwise they look the part. The kids negotiated a serpentine track called the Blizzard Speedway, which is set on the mountainside, tucked next to the tubing hill’s Magic Carpet, with views of the Gore range in the distance.

It's hard to keep your eyes on the track when the view is this good.

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the track when the view is this good.

While the kids were told this wasn’t bumper cars and they needed to drive with care, there was more than one crash. Kids flew up banks and rolled over. There were collisions. These were clearly not licensed drivers. It was hilarious for the spectators and my kids loved it. Part of the appeal, I think, was wearing the helmet. It made them look like real bad-ass slednecks.

Tubing Time

Next we hit the tubing lanes. Half the fun of tubing is riding up the Magic Carpet, which is covered in a space-age translucent tube. We linked up as many as five tubes and requested a spin at the top. You can be sure there was hooting and hollering on the way down. It was fast and fun. We discovered that if you drag your butt on the bottom of the tube, it slows you down a little and makes your rump tingle. We kept our backsides up after that first run.

Beam me up Scotty! The lift to the top of the tubing lanes is futuristic.

Beam me up Scotty! The lift to the top of the tubing lanes is futuristic. Photo credit: Helen Olsson

At the bottom, we noticed Vail employees laying down what looked like giant burlap sacks in the outrun. When I asked them what they were doing, they told me it was to slow down tubers—for when it gets really fast. In spring, when the sun starts to dip, the tracks freeze up and get crazy fast. For speed junkies, twilight would be the time to go.

Ready for a high-speed spinning descent.

Ready for a high-speed spinning descent.

Ziplining: a.k.a. Skyfall

Our last adventure at Adventure Ridge that day was the Zipline. We squirmed into harness put on helmets. The resort provides bright orange climbing helments; my kids wore their ski helmets. The operators clicked us onto a line and we put our feet up on a door, suspended above the metal deck. When it was time to go, the doors opened like horseracing gates and we fell 1,200 vertical feet through the sky.

Hanging on tight on the zipline at Vail.

Hanging on tight on the zipline at Vail. Photo credit: Helen Olsson

The cool thing about the Zipline at Vail is that you can go four at a time, so you’re right there, flying through the air high above the slopes, with your darlings screaming right next to you. I was trying to take pictures, which was darn near impossible because I kept going into a spin.

Hanging around at the end of the line.

Hanging around at the end of the line. Photo credit: Helen Olsson

Our day was one adrenaline rush after the next, and we never once clicked into our skis.

Details:

Tubing: Tuesday through Saturday, the tubing venue is open from noon until 7 p.m. It closes at 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. The cost for a one-hour session is $38.

Ziplining: The zipline is open from noon until 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. (It closes at 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.) It’s $20 per ride (Vail just reduced the price!!). Zippers must weigh between 55 and 275 pounds. Vail recommends participants be at least 8 years old.

Snowmobiling: Little riders should be between 6 and 12 years of age and at least 42″ tall and under 110 pounds. The track is open from noon until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and until 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. The cost is $25 for 15 minutes.

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