Gloucester Ski & Snowboard Centre is one of the premier dry slopes in the country, with a 220-metre main slope with a snowflex Funpark, a trainer slope and two nursery slopes.
If hurtling down a hill on an oversized rubber ring doesn’t sound like fun, what does? We discovered the new sport for ourselves when we went tubing at Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre.
‘Is there a lift to the top of the hill?’, ‘What if I fall out?’, and said with the most worried of faces ‘How will I stop?’ were just some of the questions our intrepid group of ten first-time tubers were pondering over as we sat in Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre’s bar, sipping chilled drinks for a dash of Dutch courage on a scorching evening as the sun began to set.
Comparing our rag-tag assortment of gloves – woolly ones with fingers missing; grubby ones for gardening and leather driving varieties all making an appearance – we periodically stared up at the seemingly mountainous slope from the haven of the bar, as a sprinkling of skiers and snowboarders hurtled down. Our nervous giggles – and manly backslapping from the males of the group, ahem – reached fever pitch as we were shown our modes of transport: a pile of red and blue rubber rings with tell tale damp patches.
Waves of relief flooded over us when we were lined-up at the bottom of a baby slope, where we were given instructions by enthusiastic staff member Ian. ‘Don’t step into the ring from behind’ was pretty much all we had to remember – yet that was almost forgotten by a few, who blamed ‘over-excitement’ for their sudden amnesia – and no, there wasn’t a lift. We had to walk – it is a sport, after all.
Grabbing our rings by the dangling tail we dragged them up the steep incline – as we reached the top of the hill, we came to a group realisation that the ‘baby slope’ didn’t seem so infantile from this angle. But before long we were each sat in the middle of the ring, looking down at the ominous drop, with the kind of feeling you get when you’re strapped into a roller-coaster and you know it’s too late to change your mind.
Legs flailing, hands gripped for dear life around the two handles, Ian gave me a good shove and I was tubing… screaming, twirling round in circles and flying down the hill faster than I thought imaginable, hoping I would stop sometime before I reached the car park. I did, of course, and soon waves of screams – and manly shouts from the males of the group – followed until all ten of us were jogging to get back to the top of the hill for another go at this newly-discovered, exhilarating sport.
Comparable to all-weather sledging, after gathering courage, we expanded our downhill repertoire with more adventurous manoeuvres: the head first, lying flat varieties; twisting, Waltzer-like journeys downhill courtesy of Ian’s energetic spinning; groups of two and three linked-up in variety of shapes and formations, and the running-and-jumping starts. It wasn’t long before the competitive streak caught on and a number of races were arranged too. The whole group linked-hands in a giant circle at one point, culminating in big, but completely harmless, crash at the foot of the slope.
Small fountains of water are used to make sure the Snowflex surface remains as slippery as possible – which explained the foreboding damp patches on the rings – and some of us were unlucky enough to bump through the puddle at the bottom of the hill, which we joked made it look like tubing was terrifying! In the warm dusk weather, however, we dried out pretty quickly.
After the ninth or tenth go, one member of the group exclaimed while huffing and puffing up the hill that ‘this is much more fun than going to the gym,’ while another added ‘all this climbing is definitely worth the coming down bit,’ but we had to admit it was Ian – the guy who had the unenviable job of giving us a ruddy good tug or running push start – who had the hardest workout.
While our human instinct for self-preservation did initially make us cautious about tubing, after an exhilarating evening spent at Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre with a bunch of friends, we are born again converts to the sport – and all jubilantly spent the time cooling-down in the bar afterwards planning our next outing. The only downside, we decided, is that after half-hour, we still wanted more goes… the exhausted looks on our beetroot-coloured faces, however, would have told onlookers that 30-minutes of downhill excitement was more than enough.
Tubing at Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre costs from £6 per child aged four and over or £7.50 per adult for a half-hour session. Alternatively, Slide and Dine Parties for adults cost £17 per head – including Bucks Fizz and nibbles, a tubing session and a meal in the bar. Call (01452) 874842 for more information.
By Michelle Fyrne
Sunday 18 May 2008
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