ANCHORAGE - Less than three years since Alyeska Resort unveiled its Glacier Tubing Park, the resort's new owners have decided the thrill is gone.
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The tubing park has been closed to make way for the relocated terrain and adventure park at the Tanaka lift. It is all part of a project to improve overall skiing and snowboarding opportunities for the resort, said Alyeska spokesman Jason Lott.
"It's one of the unfortunate parts of the project, that the tubing hill will go away," Lott said. "We loved having it, and I think it was a fun activity and a great additional activity for those non-skiers and that's what we're working for. But we want to get that beginner terrain open for skiers."
To make room for more beginner ski runs, the existing terrain park has been moved across the mountain. The new area is bigger, more challenging and a hit with snowboarders and skiers.
Also, Lott said, he thinks the tubing park "just lost its steam." When the park first opened in January 2005, skiers and snowboarders seemed to love the alternative activity. It was a chance to do something different for a while, he said. Nonskiers liked it too, as they could accompany their skiing friends to the resort and spend time outside doing something they enjoyed.
But maintaining the tubing park was time-intensive, and that time was better spent meeting the resort's main goal, which is to make the sport of skiing more friendly for all ages.
The tubing park closure has not had much effect on clients, according to the hotel's concierge desk. Most patrons have been interested in accessing good ski areas. Other off-mountain activities that have drawn interest include snowshoeing, cross-country ski rentals and ice skating on the small pond behind the hotel. Hotel guests now can borrow ice skates free.
Dale Martsolf, who was one of the first tubers to hit the hill when it opened in 2005, said he isn't heartbroken over the tubing park's absence.
"I haven't really thought about it," he said. "I only used it that once, maybe one other time, since it opened."
Nor is Chelsea Rembert, who said that although she enjoyed the tubing hill when she tried it in 2005, she hasn't gone back since because she prefers snowboarding.
"I won't miss it, but it gave the little kids who didn't snowboard the chance to sled and go down the hill," she said. "I think it's a sad thing that it isn't there for the little kids anymore."
Lott said it is not certain that the Tubing Park is forever history. The activity continues to be popular nationwide, although it appears to be leveling off. Of the 376 current members of the National Ski Areas Association, 160, or 42 percent, list snow tubing as a featured activity. That's a slight decrease from 2005, when 45 percent of the association's 325 members offered it.
"It's difficult to say," he said. "We're looking at all the options right now, and we're not sure."
For now, he said, the focus is on making snow and getting people on the slopes.
"We've got a ton of precipitation," he said. "Not only do we have fresh snow, but we have man-made as well."