The Norwegians migrated en masse to the upper Midwest to work the mines and fields of northern Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Minnesota. They brought with them a love of winter. They jumped, toured, and explored the snow-laden hills of their new homeland that reminded them so much of eastern Norway.
The small towns of the Midwest were cradles of snowsports lovers. Thousands of spectators would gather in Eau Claire and La Crosse in Wisconsin; Fox River Grove, Illinois; Red Wing and Stillwater, Minnesota; and Ishpeming and Pine Mountain in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They came to watch those daring young Norwegians jump and slide down the hill; long before the modern era of snowsports - skiing and then snowboarding - became popular.
There are more than 100 modern ski and snowboard resorts scattered across the Midwest today, but that simple love of sliding down a hill hasn't gone away over the last century-and-a-half. Middle Americans still love their sledding hills.
That's evidenced by the many tubing parks that have opened at Heartland ski areas, especially across the lower Midwest. No less than 38 ski areas scattered across mid-America now have lift served tubing parks. Minnesota and Wisconsin lead the way with nine each, and all of the ski areas in Ohio and Indiana offer tubing. There are even a few areas where you can rent a toboggan or luge for an exhilarating run.
Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, near Des Moines, Iowa, offers tubing runs down a hill that's 15 stories tall, and Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park, in Andalusia, Ill., near the Quad Cities, has the five lane Stargazer Tubing Hill with a Magic Carpet lift.
The Artic Blast tubing park, located at Paoli Peaks halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville in Indiana, offers 700-foot runs and its own parking area. Perfect North Slopes, located in the southeast corner of the state just a stones throw away from Cincinnati, offers one of the largest tubing centers in the Heartland; 24 lanes, a conveyor belt lift, and 1,000-foot runs.
Boyne Mountain, Mich. offers four 1,000-foot tubing lanes, and Shanty Creek also has four 800-foot lanes with varied difficulty. Snow Snake, near Harrison, is the closest up-north ski area to Detroit offering tubing. They have four 750-foot lanes.
There are several choices located around the Twin Cities of Minn. Nearby Buck Hill, Afton Alps, and Wild Mountain all offer tubing. Afton and Buck each offer six chutes and Wild's Wild Chute Tubing Park has 12 lanes with one lane for double-wide tubes.
Snow Creek, between St. Joseph and Kansas City on the Missouri side, offers six tubing lanes with a 100-foot drop.
All four ski areas In northern Ohio offer tubing. Boston Mills/Brandywine, located near the Metropolis of Cleveland, has the Polar Blast Tubing Park, one of the premier parks in the Heartland. It offers 20 tubing lanes that equal the length of three football fields, two new conveyor lifts, and its own 3,200 square-foot lodge. Mad River Mountain has 10 900-foot chutes, two lifts and its own parking area.
You can head to Sunburst Ski Area In southern Wisconsin where you will find eight 900-foot chutes, a separate parking area, and new Magic Carpet lift. Near Madison, Cascade Mountain offers four 800-foot lanes and own parking area. The northern part of the Badger State has Christie Mountain and Trollhaugen ski areas that offer tubing. Christie has six lanes from easy going to advanced with bumps and jumps.
Pokagon State Park, located north of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, offers one of the few toboggan runs found in the Midwest. Open from Thanksgiving through March, it's a 1780 foot refrigerated twin toboggan slide where you reach speeds up to 40 mph. You will have to cart the sled back up the hill by hand, however. The sleds rent for $10 per hour and a shelter offers warm drinks and hot food. Call (260) 833-2012 for more information.
Echo Valley Winter Fun Park, near Kalamazoo, Mich., has several quarter-mile toboggan runs where you can reach speeds of 60 mph. access the runs all day for $10. There's an overhead lift system and a tubing hill. A rustic lodge with a wood burning hearth has a snack bar.
Whitnall Park in Hales Corners near Milwaukee, has an iced toboggan track where you can rent a sled for $6 per hour.
One of the most unusual sledding opportunities in the country is located in southern Michigan at the Winter Sports Complex in Muskegon State Park. It's one of only four luge runs in the U.S., and touted as the most accessible in North America.
However, in order to ride it, you must attend a 2.5 hour luge clinic. The first 15 minutes is spent on instruction, and the rest of the time is spent sliding down the course. Clinics are held every weekend throughout the winter and fill quickly.
Check out Paul Doherty's One Stop Guide For Snow Tubing, Sledding, And Snowplay for detailed information on snow-play areas throughout North America.