I’ve always liked Ober Gatlinburg.
There’s an aspect of nostalgia with the place I quite enjoy, starting with the ice skating rink ripped straight from a Northern Indiana Mall food court circa 1987 to the general low-rent chalet feel. Ober is like retro-vacationing.
It’s a good feeling.
But there are times to go to Ober and times it’s best not to bother.
For example? The first week of November is probably the worst time to visit. They haven’t made the transition from Oktoberfest to the holidays, and half of the stuff is shut down. It’s a bad time.
In fact, we were there in early November. One of the few people who seemed excited to be there was the Dippin’ Dots stand guy. He was hilarious.
When’s the best time, you might ask?
Does Ober Gatlinburg have snow?
Winter is the right time at Ober Gatlinburg, provided it’s cold enough for the machine-made snow.
Note: Don’t call it artificial snow, an Ober employee will pop out of a hole in the ground and kick you in the shin.
They also offer skiing and snowboarding, when weather conditions allow.
I was never much of a skier myself – although the ski life on the slopes is alluring. I had skis as a kid and went a few times. We lived so far north I even had cross-country skis though they weren’t practical in the city.
But I always preferred sledding or tubing. No learning curve, pure adrenaline rush.
And that’s my favorite part of Ober in the winter – the snow tubing.
How long is the tubing hill at Ober Gatinburg?
The Ober Gatlinburg snow tubing hill is 350 feet long with a 50-foot drop. It’s the drag racing venue of winter sports.
Ain’t no slaloming here, buddy.
It’s great for kids and adults who don’t want to spend their snow time falling down and hurting their ankles trying to learn to ski. And unlike the hills out in the wild, the Ober Gatlinburg tubing hill comes with a Magic Carpet – a moving sidewalk that carries you back up the hill.
If you want more information, there is plenty on the bizarrely aggressive Ober Gatlinburg tubing web page which contains a series of warnings, policies, asterisks and regulations.
The page was clearly designed by someone who was tired of putting up with a bunch of customer service and doesn’t really want you to actually come to Ober Gatlinburg.
Well, maybe it’s OK if you come, just don’t bother them. They’ve got a lot going on.
For example, this is written in bright red on the tubing page:
*PLEASE NOTE: If having issues purchasing tickets online, BEFORE CALLING, PLEASE carefully read “Helpful Hints” below on this page FIRST. Thank You.
Even the “Thank You” feels aggressive.
Also in red:
PLEASE NOTE: Like all resort attractions anywhere, during holiday periods and most weekends, you should be prepared for long waits at ticket booths and some attractions. We recommend that you get an early start each day and allow extra time for these unavoidable delays.
Can you ask for a refund?
Tubing sessions are held unless there are extreme weather conditions, which is rare. So, no refunds are issued except in unusual circumstances. Also in red:
Please note: Tubing sessions are held in sunshine, rain, sleet & snow. There are no refunds for Snow Tubing unless the session is canceled due to extreme adverse weather or other concerns … This is a rare occurrence.
I wouldn’t have been shocked to see, in all red:
PLEASE NOTE: Abandon all HOPE ye who enter HERE. Thank you.
Still, good information remains hidden amongst the passive-aggressive warnings, cautions and notes.
Okay, back to the snow. Is it real?
Ober has snow machines that make real snow.
Freezing fluffy water is blasted into the air and packed down to create a snow pad that will remain intact even if the weather is significantly above freezing.
Hold on, I just received the following message from Mother Nature:
PLEASE NOTE: While Gatlinburg is located at a significant elevation in the mountains it is still located in the SOUTH. While there are many DAYS for which I will PROVIDE cold WEATHER & SNOW, there will be many days when the weather is relatively MILD. PLEASE PLAN ACCORDINGLY.
The following restrictions are also in place:
Ages 3 to 5 must ride with an adult 18 years or older, children ages 2 and under are not allowed to go tubing.
You must be at least 6 years old and 42 inches tall to ride alone.
All tubers must be able to get in and out of tubes and lanes quickly, must be able to ride conveyors unassisted in a standing position and be able to understand instructions and rules.
Individuals who are pregnant cannot participate in this activity.
Can you drive up to Ober Gatlinburg?
Although, you can usually find discounted tickets on Tripster.
Since your 90-minute tubing session must be scheduled in advance and comes with a specific time – from 11 am to 12:30 pm for example – riding the Tramway comes with something of inherent risk to your schedule. If you’re going to take the tram, I would get there significantly before the allotted tubing time.
However, it should be noted the roads up to Ober are not built for heavy traffic and so there can be significant waits to get up the mountain, park and get to the lodge in time to tube or ski or whatever. Really what I’m saying is this:
PLEASE NOTE: Especially during HOLIDAYS and WEEKENDS, Ober can be pretty busy and lacking great infrastructure to get you to the park. YOU should definitely plan on giving yourself a significant cushion prior to your tubing time. If you miss your time, you’re unlikely to get a refund.
After all that, if you make it to the hill, have some fun and be sure to check out the food court.
I repeat, the guy at the Dippin’ Dots stand is hilarious.
How much does it cost to snow tube at Ober Gatlinburg?
Snow tubing sessions are 90 minutes. Tickets for snow tubing cost $30 on regular ol’ weekdays and $35 on holidays and weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays. Note that prices are subject to change.
During the summer, Ober also offers summer tubing.
Ober Gatlinburg welcomes visitors of all ages and is located at 1339 Ski Mountain Road in downtown Gatlinburg.
Do you enjoy snow tubing at Ober Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments below.