"Keystone offers no shortage of summer fun to be had, and what's more Colorado than guests being able to slide down snow despite the calendar being set on summer," said Cody Stake, manager at Adventure Point, the summer and winter activities hub at the top of the River Run Gondola. As Stake says, Keystone is packed with summer diversions — scenic lift rides, mountaintop yoga, the Keystone Bike Park — but summer tubing is one of the strangest, and by far one of the most enticing. Keystone is home to the only snow tubing operation in Colorado after the ski season ends, with lanes open for tubers of all ages from now until at least mid-July. Some seasons, when Mother Nature cooperates with cool temperatures, the tubing lanes are open as late as August.
"(Snow tubing) continues to be another fun way for guests of all ages to experience the mountains," Stake said. "It's quite the rush to be sitting atop snow in shorts and a t-shirt, with nothing but mountaintop views surrounding you, while your friends back home have the air conditioning cranked up to full blast."
SUMMER ON SNOW
Snow tubing in summer is a one-of-a-kind experience, to be sure, but how exactly does it work? As seen from U.S. Highway 6, Keystone's slopes are usually the first in Summit County to appear completely dried out, and there certainly isn't anywhere anxious skiers and snowboarders can hike to for mid-summer turns, like they often do on July 4 at Fourth of July bowl (aka Peak 10) looming over Breckenridge.
Simply stated, Keystone isn't as snow-free as it seems. The upper reaches at nearly 12,000 feet hold snow long after summer begins, Stake said, and crews begin farming snow for the tubing hill as soon as the lifts stop spinning in April.
"Once Keystone closes for the winter, we begin condensing our eight winter tubing lanes into two summer lanes, piling the snow as high as we can to create an experience that will last into the summer," Stake said. "Our two summer snow tubing lanes are 500 feet long. That's a lot of tubing."
The tubing hill didn't open until June 9 this season — nearly a full two months after closing day — but that only meant the rest of Keystone truly felt like summer by the time it was ready for tubers. Shorts, t-shirts and tank tops are more than acceptable for summer tubing, Stake said, but he recommends anyone who signs up for an afternoon of tubing bring layers, just in case. The only things required are close-toed shoes and a sense of adventure.
But what does a taste of winter in the heat of summer cost? As winter lift ticket prices inch closer and closer to small fortunes — a single-day adult ticket at Keystone this past season was more than $100 — summer tubing has remained relatively affordable. The price is $33 per person, which includes a lift pass to the top of the mountain and one hour of tubing. Groups of up to four people in daisy-chained tubes can cruise the lanes and Stake makes special arrangements for large groups, such as birthday parties, family reunions and church groups.
"Come and enjoy some of the last remnants of snow at Keystone," Stake said, "Before it's too late!"