Snow Tubing vs. Sledding – What’s the Difference?

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of careening down a snow-covered hill on a sled or inner tube. When doing so, many people wonder whether a sled or a snow tube will help them enjoy the ride more. Sledding and snow tubing are similar, yet there are subtle differences between the two that’ll help you decide.


The Basics
Snow sleds may consist of wooden platforms with runners attached, or plastic devices that somewhat resemble a shallow tub. Both types tend to have a rope handle attached to the front to use for steering.

Snow tubes on the other hand are basically oversized inner tubes with a cut-out section in the center. They are often referred to as “biscuits” or “donuts” because of their shape. Rather than lying down, you sit across the top of the tube, holding onto a handle on either side for support.

The Slide
Sleds are easier to control due to their steering rope. In addition, anyone riding a sled may also slow themselves down by running their hands along the ground (something that is much easier to do when lying face down). This makes them safer and more practical for children. More than one child can ride on a sled at the same time, eliminating arguments over who gets to go first. Parents can even ride along with their children, making them suitable even for very young kids.

Snow tubes are more aerodynamic, and will therefore go faster than sleds. As such, they are ideal for anyone who would like a little more adventure than what a sled offers. Even so, tubes are notorious for being harder to steer. Unlike with sleds, riders cannot easily use their hands to slow down the tube down, and changing direction by hand could cause it to spin wildly out of control. For this reason, tubes are not recommended for very young children, or those without previous riding experience.

You Decide
Recognizing the unique differences between snow sledding and snow tubing, many parks are now offering separate spaces for each. Many tubing hills contain a series of bumps and curves to keep your heart pounding as you race to the finish, like the Coca-Cola Tube ParkĀ in Winter Park. Snow sledding hills are a bit more informal, like the Firecracker Hill in Telluride, and allow you to enjoy some nice socialization with others while awaiting your turn. Whichever you choose, both are fun family activities that you can participate in any time there is even just a few inches of snow.