On a high slope with spectacular views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s first-ever summer tubing hill opened on July 15th at the YMCA of the Rockies, Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby. The summer tubing hill represents the first phase of a Family Adventure Park at Snow Mountain Ranch that was designed by Design Concepts, an award-winning community and landscape architecture firm located in Lafayette, Colorado.
"The tubing hill is a wonderful tool to help us deliver our mission to bring families together,” said Snow Mountain Ranch Center Director Trueman Hoffmeister. ”It’s one of those activities that the whole family can enjoy. It is fast enough to get the adrenaline pumping, but not too scary for the non-thrill seekers.” Hoffmeister said the tubing hill so far has seen a steady stream of multi-generations of families enjoying the ride together. “The kids love to see grandpa tubing. They’re all having a good time.”
“I’m very pleased with Design Concepts, who guided us in creating a master plan and through the details and execution of this project, from big-picture design to how the mountain ranch character would be expressed for our guests,” said Julie Watkins, vice president for association advancement for the YMCA of the Rockies. Watkins says the summer tubing hill enhances the association’s mission by bringing family and friends together in wholesome, challenging, and fun activities. Snow Mountain Ranch guests, which include family reunion groups, military families, and special camps, have access to the tubing hill for free, while day users pay a fee. “We’re already seeing a lot of diversity on the hill, with people of different ages, backgrounds, and places.”
Design Concepts worked with United Kingdom-based BRITON Engineering Developments Ltd., to design the first summer/fall tubing hill in Colorado, and the third in the nation. BRITON Engineering manufactures the Snowflex® system, a high-performance polymer composite system with similar qualities to a soft snow-like surface. The system includes an integrated misting system that sprays a fine mist of water on the surface to keep it slippery in Colorado’s arid, high-altitude climate. The 300-foot- long tubing hill provides a steep descent and multiple knolls to boost the fun. Design Concepts also designed the surrounding site and landscape features, including a 200 foot “magic carpet” lift system, which transports riders and their tubes back to the top of the hill, allowing more time and energy for tubing.
Design Concepts designed the new plaza at the top of the tubing hill, where visitors can get their tubes and helmets and purchase food. The mountain ranch character is expressed in the plaza through careful selection of design materials and integration of ranch icons into the plaza. An oversized lasso, horseshoes, cowboy boots, and other designs sandblasted into the paving and boulder seating, as well as integrated into the design of the Pebbleflex® paving material, enhance the visitor experience. The plaza provides space to play, line up for the tubing hill, picnic, and multiple areas for riders to relax, and enjoy the tubing scene and mountain views. An adjacent parking lot provides easy access to the hill.
The tubing hill is the first in a series of activity zones that will be built for the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch Family Adventure Park. Snow Mountain Ranch is popular in the winter for its Nordic ski trails and other winter attractions, and YMCA leaders wanted some “out of the box” thinking about recreation and play equipment that would expand the ranch’s attraction for families during the spring, summer, and fall months.
“We wanted the adventure park to be special, not like what families find in their hometown of Dallas or Des Moines, so we brainstormed on what we might include,” said Watkins. A YMCA survey of guests and others had indicated an adventure camp and tubing hill were highly desired amenities. YMCA staff then researched adventure playgrounds online and through on-site visits, and particularly liked the Design Concepts projects. In the spring of 2012, YMCA staff invited Design Concepts to lead the design for an adventure park with play areas that would bring families together with activities that appeal to different generations. Design Concepts’ master plan was accepted by the YMCA leadership in October of 2012, and construction for the tubing hill began in the spring of 2013.
The firm’s Family Adventure Park master plan addresses a steeply sloping 22-acre site located among the ranch’s cabins, yurt villages, and other activity areas. In recent years, the area has been clear cut to remove beetle-kill pines, opening up vast views of the Continental Divide. The master plan provides areas and play equipment for active and passive activities in five adventure zones connected by an accessible loop trail and interspersed exploratory activities. Capital improvement funds paid for the tubing hill, and the rest of the project’s estimated $11 million total in costs will primarily be raised through donations and a portion through some operational funds, according to Watkins.
Snow Mountain Ranch is preparing for Phase 2 of the project, during which the Spruce Saddle Adventure Zone will be built near the tubing hill and parking lot. The zone features multi-generational equipment, including a rock climbing wall and slide, zip line, twisted log ladder, rocks and ropes climbers to test all abilities, a two-person pendulum swing, and moose and saddle climbers. A picnic shelter with mountain views provides a shady place to take a break while sitting on saddle seats.
“Our goal was to find unique play pieces that the ranch didn’t have to staff and maintain—stand-alone pieces of equipment that were unusual and wouldn’t require supervision,” says Shanen Weber, Design Concepts’ principal in charge of the project. “We strived to create compelling adventure opportunities that focused on keeping teens and tweens interested, which is hard to do. But it’s important, because they are part of the whole multi-generational dynamic.”
The master plan’s other future areas include the Gone Gosling Giant Swing, which drops 50 feet, giving several riders a thrill as they swing through the air. The Cowboy Corral Adventure Zone provides activities for families with young children, such as a chicken-coop playhouse, digging area, and stump stage. The nature-themed Barnyard Boogie Adventure Zone, designed for ages two to 12, encourages children to explore barn ruins, climb the pine-cone climbing wall, and slide down a pine needle slide to see who can race through the hay-bale maze first. The Natural Play Adventure Zone offers more passive play experiences, such as trails, boardwalks, and bouncing bridges that allow visitors to explore the forest and riparian ecosystems.
For a video of the tubing hill and information about for hours of operation and costs for the YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch’s new tubing hill: http://snowmountainranch.org/activities/summer-tubing-hill/. For more information about Design Concepts’ master plan for the Family Adventure Park and other projects: www.dcla.net.
Snow Mountain Ranch Summer Tubing Hill Fact Sheet
The summer tubing hill is designed to create an exhilarating experience for users of the Family Adventure Park. The tubing hill provides a “base camp” for the master planned 22-acre Family Adventure Park. The design balances the flexibility and use of large gathering and staging areas with quiet areas to soak in the views of the surrounding mountains. The Family Adventure Park mountain ranch character is brought to life in this phase through integration of ranch icons throughout the site design features.
First phase of the Family Adventure Park
- $2.8 Million Project
- 5.5 Acre overall project site
- Over 50,000 CY of earthwork
- 300 foot long summer tubing hill
- Over 300 pieces of Snowflex material weighing approximately 25,000 lbs
- 6000 miles of the slippery filament called polybutylterapthelate (PBT) to make 17,800 SF of sliding surface
- Approximately 2000 screws and 100,000 staples to fasten the Snowflex
- Over 200 mist nozzles to make the hill slippery
- 200-foot-long Magic Carpet Lift (designed for summer use in lieu of winter)
- 12,000 SF synthetic turf used for tubing bumpers and deceleration
- 13,000 SF Plaza
- Concessions and Restroom Buildings
- 5,000 SF Pebbleflex (poured-in-place material) with mountain ranch design theme
- 9 months construction (started in Spring 2013, completed July 2014)
- Endless amounts of fun!
Design Concepts, CLA, Inc., is an award-winning community and landscape architecture firm located in Lafayette, Colorado. Founded in 1981, Design Concepts CLA, Inc. focuses on master planning and design for parks, communities, and K-12 school and university campuses throughout the United States. For more information, go to www.dcla.net.