I’ve always liked Ober Mountain, formerly known as Ober Gatlinburg, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.
There’s an aspect of nostalgia with the place I quite enjoy, starting with the year-round ice skating rink ripped straight from a Northern Indiana Mall food court circa 1987.
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 tends to be closed. It’s a bad time.
In fact, we once visited in early November. One of the few people who seemed excited to be there was the Dippin’ Dots stand guy. He was hilarious.
So when’s the best time to visit, you might ask? Right now.
Does Ober Mountain have snow?
Winter is the right time at Ober Mountain, provided it’s cold enough for the machine-made snow. At the time of this writing, snow tubing is available. The ski slopes typically open in mid-December.
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.
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 snow tubing. There’s no learning curve, just a pure adrenaline rush.
And that’s my favorite part of Ober in the winter – the snow tubing. And it’s one of the only snow tubing parks in Gatlinburg.
How long is the tubing hill at Ober Mountain in Gatlinburg?
The Ober Mountain snow tubing hill is 350 feet long with a 50-foot drop. It’s the drag racing venue of winter sports.
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 tubing hill comes with a Magic Carpet – a moving sidewalk and outdoor escalator that carries you back up to the top of the hill.
If you want more information, there is plenty on the slightly aggressive Ober tubing web page which contains a series of warnings, policies, and asterisks.
Before the attraction’s rebranding, the former web page was clearly designed by someone who was tired of putting up with a bunch of customer service and didn’t really want you to actually come to Ober.
Well, maybe it’s OK if you come, just don’t bother them.
Since its redesign, the bright red warnings have been toned down a bit. But still, on top of the tubing page it reads:
If having issues purchasing tickets online, before calling please read the helpful hints below. We cannot sell tickets over the phone. Thank you.
Will snow tubing ever close due to the weather?
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.
Okay, I made up that last bit. Still, good information remains hidden amongst the passive-aggressive warnings.
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.
What do you wear snow tubing at Ober?
You want to wear something warm. If the material is a bit waterproof, that’s even better.
Layers are always a safe bet. There will be snow, and it will be cold. But you’ll be moving around and staying active, so you may not want to bundle up too much.
Ober recommends turtleneck shirts, sweaters, long underwear and footless tights. Also wear appropriate hats, goggles and sunglasses for the current weather conditions.
They also recommend wearing pants or a jacket with a loop so you can fasten your lift or tubing ticket.
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 Mountain?
There is, finally, the question of how you get up the mountain to Ober. The Tramway is pretty cool, but it is an extra cost and during busy times can have as much as a two-hour wait.
Although, you can usually find discounts 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:
Like all resort attractions anywhere, during holiday periods and most weekends, you should be prepared for longer waits at ticket booths and some attractions. We recommend that you get an early start each day and allot extra time for these unavoidable delays.
After all that, if you make it to the hill, have some fun and be sure to check out the food court.
How much does it cost to snow tube at Ober Mountain?
Snow tubing sessions are 90-minute sessions. Tickets for snow tubing cost $35 on regular ol’ weekdays and $45 on holidays and weekends, on Saturdays and Sundays. Note that prices are subject to change.
You can purchase tickets on their website.
It’s a blast for visitors and locals alike.
During the summer, Ober also offers summer tubing.
What other winter activities does Ober have?
Ober is best known for their winter activities. They offer skiing and snowboarding, when weather permits (usually beginning in mid-December), a cubbies snow zone play area, ice skating and ice bumper cars.
Their wildlife encounter, mountain coaster and scenic chairlift are also open in the winter season.
Ober Mountain welcomes visitors of all ages and is located at 1339 Ski Mountain Road in downtown Gatlinburg.
Have you been snow tubing at Ober Mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee? Let us know in the comments below.