You don't need to burn gas to get to the mountains to tube in Canada. Many of the region's larger cities have lift-served tubing parks right in town or within a few minutes drive. They are inexpensive, fun, quick to reach, and require zero talent or experience.
Most tubing hills require riders reach a minimum height of 48 inches. Some accommodate families with pint-sized kids by adding toboggan courses with gentler slopes where the wee ones can slide, too.
Vancouver, British Columbia: Western Canada's largest city has tubing parks within spitting distance of its suburbs. Both Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour run tubing hills plus toboggan slopes where families can try sliding the old fashioned way before vinyl and rubber came along.
Mount Seymour Resorts, located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver, runs the Enquist Snow Tube Park which features four lanes of snow tubing thrills with a 100-meter vertical drop. A custom-built snow tube tow eliminates the hike back to the top. A two-hour tubing ticket costing $16.50 per person, but a family of five can buy a special pass for $65.
The resort's Toboggan Park is a designated play area for families—the answer for families with kids too young and short for the tubing park. Bring your own toboggan because inflatable tubes are not permitted. Tickets cost only $8 per person, but you haul yourself back up the hill. Both parks run daily from mid-December through March. Snow conditions may alter the schedules for both parks; call the 604-986-2261 to confirm the day's schedule.
Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver also uses a surface lift to tow riders sitting on tubes back up for repeat runs. A two-hour session costs $13.81 per person, but during the peak holiday from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 and on weekends in January and February, rates go up to $16.57. A small sliding area designed for children under the age of six and those too small to tube drops with a gentle slope that runs 25 meters long. Bring your own sled. The climb back to the top is short and low-angled enough to do on foot. Call 604-922-0825 for rates and details.
Edmonton, Alberta: Sunridge Ski Area grooms three lanes on its ski hill for daily tubing, with hours of operation varying during the mid-November to mid-March season. You sit on your tube while a surface lift pulls you back uphill after screaming down the hill. Sometimes the management closes the park in the evening for 10 minutes to regroom the lanes smooth--especially if daytime temperatures hover above freezing before dropping after dark.
The resort may sell more two-hour tubing tickets ($16 per person) than they have tubes, which happens on popular Friday nights and weekends. Protocol dictates that those arriving at the summit pass their tubes forward to let the first people in line tube down. Helmets, available for rental, are recommended. Kids must be at least 42 inches tall and at least six year old. Call 780-449-6555 for current conditions.
Ottawa, Ontario: Mount Pakenham, sitting just outside Canada's capital city, installed their snow tubing lift between ski runs and their terrain park. That makes it a perfect place for families with a mix of skiers and nonskiers to have fun in the snow and still catch sight of each other. Rates are $3 per ride or $15 for eight rides. Kids must be at least 45 inches tall and six years old to tube; they must also be accompanied by an adult. The resort usually opens early December through late March, but snow dictates exact dates. Saturdays, Sundays and holiday have two sessions called "Slide Party Time," meant for scheduling two-hour birthday parties and corporate events for groups of 10 or more. Call for 613-624-5290 to check conditions.
Check out Paul Doherty's One Stop Guide For Snow Tubing, Sledding, And Snowplay for detailed information on snow-play areas throughout North America.