GARDEN VALLEYGarden Valley getaway Take a winter road trip for tubing, sleigh rides and more PHOTOS AND STORY Roger Phillips Idaho Statesman GARDEN VALLEY High-energy country music is blaring from the outdoor speakers, and its a party — High-energy country music is blaring from the outdoor speakers, and it's a party on the snow at Garden Valley. Families are sliding down snowy slopes on inner tubes and taking a short walk back to the rope tow for another run.
They slowly disappear uphill into the timber and then re-emerge in a blur of gravity and grins as they careen down the six groomed lanes at Idaho X-Sports tubing hill.
Nearby, Allreds Adventures' draft horses pull a sleigh across a frozen meadow with a backdrop like a Budweiser commercial.
It's not some far-off destination; it's about an hour's drive from the Treasure Valley that mixes scenery with a thrilling ride downhill on a tube, a scenic hike on snowshoes or cross-country skis, or a comfortable ride across the snow on a sleigh.
The tubing hill and sleigh rides are two separate businesses operating next to each other and providing different experiences.
Idaho X-Sports tubing hill is midway through its fifth season and gaining fans every year for its fun slopes and friendly atmosphere.
Thrills are a short ride up the hill, and owner Blake Oseen said it's common for sliders to reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour on the way down.
Tubing is offered on an hourly basis. People can buy tickets for one-hour or two-hour sessions, and each session starts at the top of the hour.
Reservations are recommended because each session is limited to 90 people to keep lines reasonable and maximize everyone's time on the slopes.
The businesses offer a convenient outing for families because they just have to grab their warm clothes and go. There's no gear to buy or pack along.
"We needed to get out of the house and have fun," said Sarah Higuera of Meridian, who recently visited the tubing hill with her husband and their two children, Olivia and Ethan.
Husband Andy Higuera described Idaho X-Sports tubing hill as "kid friendly" because each lane is a little different.
In the mild lanes, you can sit back and enjoy the slide downhill, and in the wild lanes you can get a little adrenaline flowing with banked corners and jumps.
The area has tandem tubes so parents ride with a child in front of them as they both cruise down the hill.
Right next to the tubing hill is a snack bar where you can get burgers, pizza and other snacks, as well as hot and cold drinks and "adult beverages."
"We ask you to be responsible with that," Oseen said.
There's also a large heated yurt filled with picnic tables where you can eat your lunch, or just take a break and warm up, wait until your tubing time, or parents can relax while the kids tube.
But if the sun's out, get out and enjoy the fun, even if it's just watching as people cruise down the hill with their hair blowing back and the snow kicking a plume behind them like a truck on a dusty road.
Andy Higuera, Sarah's husband, said his family has been coming to the hill for three years, and he likes that it's easy to keep an eye on everyone whether on the tubing hill or at the base area.
He said it takes a similar amount of time to drive to Garden Valley as it does Bogus Basin from his home in Meridian, and it's an easy half-day trip.
"You can still have the rest of your afternoon," Higuera said.