Were you able to identify the image in this week’s Access Points photo game? Indeed, commenter Tony was correct — it was a snow tube at Stone Mountain Park’s Snow Mountain attraction.
This is Stone Mountain Park’s second year of Snow Mountain playtime. It planned to open the attraction for the first time in 2007, but caught criticism for using more than 1 million gallons of tap water during a drought and watering ban. The park brought the plan back last year, using water from its own lake.
And I’m glad it worked, because snow is far more fun to play in than to drive in. By 9 a.m., there were hundreds of kids and parents dressing snow people, throwing balls at the Snowball Shooting Gallery and carving icy angels into the ground. I underestimated how much fun there is to be had with a bucket and a fresh layer of white on the ground.
There’s no time limit to how long you can stay in the play areas, and I could tell some children would never willingly leave. The snow is icy — far tougher than the stuff that scatters on our lawns every so often in Atlanta — but good for building forts, or the most biting variety of snow ball. (Use the Shooting Gallery, people, not your little sisters!)
Organizers were wise to build in the Little Angels area, a small sledding hill for people 42 inches or shorter. Best to keep them out of the way of the cannon shooting freshly made snow every few minutes, and better still to keep them from looking too closely at the mammoth tubing hill for those a few inches taller.
A Stone Mountain staffer warned me that it takes about 23 seconds to zoom down that giant tubing hill. After one trip down, I believed her. It took considerably longer to make it through the line during my 2-hour block of tubing time, but with the help of the moving sidewalks and a high-spirited crowd, five minutes between slides wasn’t so bad. They’ve added more lanes and sidewalks this year, which make it far easier to drag your tube (or double tube!) back to the top.
I expected to leave frozen and dripping, but here’s the beauty –the snow is plenty cold, but were still in Georgia. This is not at all like playing in the backyard in Michigan, where mom would bribe us indoors with hot chocolate and marshmallows. We were too happy to know how miserably cold it was. Who needs toes, anyway? (Here’s some advice on what to wear.)
Up north, it might be 5 degrees, and we’d use ridiculous tools to get down a hill — sleds, saucers, tubes, trays, or in a pinch, flattened cardboard. Here, it’s 45 degrees and you’ve got a well-sealed tube to take you down an individual lane, where no trees or small children suddenly end up in your path. It’s got all the danger, less of the stupid.
Still, if you need to warm up, I highly recommend roasting some puffy clouds of sugar over the fire pits – $3 for marshmallow bags or $5 for s’more kits.
And if you just need a break from the sweets and adrenaline, don’t be embarrassed — I saw plenty of adults getting a lesson on fun from kids like these:
Want to go? Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain Park. Runs 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.