Here’s something to cheer you up on this decidedly gray, rainy day: there’s snow on the way. Don’t you feel better already?
What I’m talking about, though, is the best kind of snow — fluffy stuff that will never back up traffic, but happens to be perfect for tubing. As of Dec. 26, Stone Mountain Park becomes Snow Mountain Park, complete with tubing on the laser lawn, snow play areas for building igloos and snowmen, special spots for little kids and areas to take it all in or warm your feet by the fire.
Like in past years, Snow Mountain uses a closed-loop system that chills snow from Stone Mountain Lake. They’ll take several weeks to pile on layers, creating a nice slick for the daredevils who arrive on opening day. Here are some photos of Snow Mountain construction, shot yesterday by AJCer John Spink. The attraction opens a little earlier this year, catching that post-Christmas crowd that so badly needs to get out of the house.
Of course, if you haven’t played in snow so deep before, it might take some getting used to. Here are some technical pointers for how to prepare and how to play.
Don’t buy a top-of-the-line snowsuit meant for North Pole temperatures for one afternoon in the snow, but do skip over the usual cotton and denim layers. Once it’s wet, it stays wet, and you stay miserable.
Here’s how to dress yourself:
Learning to play in snow can be a lot like learning to swim the first time — it’s unfamiliar, heavier than you think and fun.
Last year, I interviewed Marc Reich, an Atlanta REI manager who grew up in Chicago and lived in Portland, Ore. He knows a bit about snow. Here was his advice for how to have fun:
Snow Mountain has 12 lanes for tubers, and no starter lanes like last year. A moving sidewalk will deliver tube riders back to the top of the 400-foot hill. Only Stone Mountain-owned equipment is allowed, and tube-riders must be at least 42 inches tall.
Reich’s take: “Parents should realize kids will have a little bit of fear. Ride with them, or start at a lower point on the hill. If you fall off, get on your back, dig your heels in and drag your feet.”
Two areas — Igloo City and Snowman Valley — are set aside for snow forts and snow people. Snow Mountain also has a closet with various accessories for snow citizens to wear. There’s no height requirement, but Snowflake Hill is designed for people 48 inches and shorter.
Reich’s take: “It’s all about the quality of the snow. Man-made snow packs pretty well. If you need to make a snowman, just make the bottom, then make them progressively smaller as you go up. Make sure it’s packed nice and tight, so it doesn’t crumble. Make sure you get several people to help you lift it up — snow is very heavy.”
A snowball shooting gallery enables snow-throwers to aim at targets, instead of at their siblings or parents. Just don’t expect it to stop snow-throwing entirely.
Reich’s take: “If the snow is melting really fast, the difference between getting hit with a snowball of light, fluffy snow and an ice ball is huge.”
Want to go? Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain Park. Runs. Opens Dec. 26 and weekends through March 7. Tickets on sale now, reservations recommended. $25 for adults and kids ages 3-11, includes two-hour tubing sessions and unlimited time in snow play areas. Combo ticket deals available. Stone Mountain Park, off Exit 8 on Highway 78, Stone Mountain. 770-498-5690, www.snowmountainpark.com.