If you’re looking for a family-friendly place to go snow tubing, Sapphire Valley is the perfect option. Kidding Around contributor Kristina took her kids and had quite the adventure, which she is sharing with our readers.
Media tickets were provided for the experience.
Having already gone snow tubing once with my kids, they were more than thrilled to learn we were going to do it again, this time at a place where our family has vacationed twice – but only in the summer. Experiencing the Sapphire Valley in Cashiers, North Carolina has a whole other feel in winter and just as fun!
More: Find out all the coolest places to snow tube in North Carolina (or ski and snowboard).
Sapphire Valley Resort
The ski lodge and mountain are on the Sapphire Valley Resort in Cashiers, NC, less than two hours from Greenville. They have skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing all winter as long as the weather cooperates. The best place to stay updated on current conditions is through the Ski Sapphire Valley website and Ski Sapphire Valley Facebook pages.
If you stay at the resort, which we have done twice through VRBO and AirBnB, you can purchase an amenity card at the community center, which will give you access to the indoor pool and sauna (and outdoor pool during warmer months), mini-golf course, arcade, and fitness center. This is located right across from the ski lodge. The amenity card is just a few dollars per person.
Snow Tubing: Frozen Falls Tube Park
Snow tubing at Sapphire Valley happens at Frozen Falls Tube Park, right behind the community center and next to the bunny slope. Snow tubing tickets are sold at the community center and are $30/person or if you have an amenity card, it is $22.50/person. You can’t buy them in advance so you need to show up, sign a waiver, and purchase your ticket. You can purchase your weekend ticket in person starting at 9 am on Fridays. They do take group reservations of more than 10 people and those must be made a week ahead of time.
On busy days, they do sell out so plan accordingly (keep reading for backup plans). Each tubing session lasts for 1.75 hours and start every two hours beginning usually at 10 am, although that can change. Check the schedule before you go.
There are no height restrictions so kids can definitely do snow tubing but they will be in their own tube. My kids (ages 9 and 5) had a blast. There is nothing quite like flying down a mountain on a giant tube! It’s exhilarating and a bit scary at first. The run is about 500 feet with a drop of 60 feet. To get up the mountain, you have to stand on an escalator-type contraption, like the kind you use at the airport that is totally flat and moves. There are staff that help to get you and your tube on it.
If you tube during the day when it’s sunny, the run will be slower than if you snow tube when the sun goes down. The 4 pm and 6 pm runs are a lot faster than the midday ones. We went snow tubing in the later afternoon and evening and were able to go down together with me holding the handles of the tubes that my kids were in. But once the sun went down, you had to go solo because the lanes were a lot faster. My kids were initially hesitant but they were brave and went down alone – and then wanted to do it all over again.
Snow Tubing Tips
These are the most important things you need to know about snow tubing at Sapphire Valley:
- Tickets are $30/person unless you have an amenity card and then it’s $22.50
- Tickets can be purchased at the community center (across from the horse statue)
- Tickets are not sold in advance so get there early to get your preferred time
- Weekend tickets are sold beginning on Fridays at 9 am in person at the community center
- You must sign a waiver before purchasing tickets, which you can print out and do beforehand to save time
- Dress for cold weather and bring extra socks (in case shoes get too wet or muddy and seep through)
- No age or height restrictions and parents are responsible for their kids
- Every tuber will have their own tube
- Tubing sessions are for 1.75 hours
- Group rates are available and reservations must be made a week ahead of time
- Always, always check the weather and website/Facebook page before you go since the resort is very dependent upon weather conditions
“Land of the Waterfalls”
The resort sits right in the middle of the “Land of the Waterfalls” so besides enjoying snow tubing, families can pair a trip with lots of hiking and waterfall chasing. There are roadside waterfalls like Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls plus gorgeous hikes with stunning waterfalls like High Falls in Glenville and Schoolhouse Falls in the Panthertown Valley.
There are tons of great options to make your trip to Cashiers especially memorable. This will come in handy if you need to kill some time before your snow tubing slot if your preferred time is sold out. Both Bridal Veil Falls and Dry Falls are within a 30-minute drive to the resort and Silver Run Falls is nearby as well and is just a short hike to get to it. Whitewater Falls is also about 30 minutes away and is quite the sight given that it’s the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies! There are several nearby waterfalls to the resort in our NC Waterfalls Tour story.
This story on the Sapphire Valley I wrote also has lots of detailed information on hikes in the area plus other relevant links you may find helpful.
One natural phenomenon in the area that only occurs twice a year is the Shadow of the Bear. It happens in the fall and also from mid-February to early March and is really cool. A shadow that looks like a bear pops out from behind Whiteside Mountain in Cashiers at 5:30 pm on sunny days.
Where to Stay
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If you want to stay at the resort and make use of the great amenities, search around on VRBO for options, like this cabin in Sapphire Valley Resort.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites directly across the street from the resort. This hotel was awesome for several reasons:
- It has an indoor pool and hot tub, which we made use of when our initial tubing time was unavailable
- It has a free, hot breakfast in the morning included which has everything from waffles to eggs to smoothies to oatmeal and bagels
- The location is just perfect as it took us no time to get to the resort
- It is super clean and the staff are friendly and helpful
- It has free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate all day long
- Great option for budget-conscious families (we saw so many families there!)
The wintertime is this area’s slower season so prices are probably as cheap as they will be all year. This season is often called the “Secret Season” because of the lower cost of trips there.
Where to Eat
Every time I’m up in the Cashiers, we eat at Slabtown Pizza, about ten minutes from the resort. It’s delicious food with fast, friendly service. Even on a busy night, we had our food in about 20 minutes, which was important because the kids were super tired. For a large pizza and Greek Salad, it was around $26. You can also order food and pick it up.
Another option is Whiteside Brewing Co., centrally located in Cashiers, which serves up typical American cuisine like burgers and sandwiches plus craft brews.
On our way to a hike, I grabbed a coffee from Buck’s Coffee Cafe, which was delicious. They also have bagels, paninis, and pastries. The decor is so cool, too, like a lodge with comfy chairs and couches and photos of various animals in the wild. Next time I plan to try Zookeepers Bistro, also in Cashiers, for an early lunch.
If you stay in a VRBO and want to cook your own meals, there is an Ingles in Cashiers on Hwy. 64 to pick up groceries locally.
Special Events + Skiing
We got pretty lucky during our snow tubing trip to see the famed Outhouse Races at the resort. It’s happening this year on February 18, 2023 at 3 pm.
You may be asking yourself if that is what it sounds like – you’d be right. Teams make their own outhouse and then race down the mountain on skis. It’s every bit as hilarious as it sounds. Outhouse teams were creatively named: “The Sounds of Movement” after the Sound of Music, “Storm Pooper” after Star Wars movies, and a church-themed one sponsored by the Knights of Columbus called “Fly By Confession.”
The crowd really gets into the races, too. They cheer for their favorite outhouse and a collective gasp happens when the outhouses inevitably crash into the snowbanks. The event happens every February and concessions, kettle corn, and hot chocolate are sold. The public can watch for free.
The resort also offers skiing and snowboarding, neither of which we tried not because they didn’t look fun (they did) but because I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to flying down a mountain on skis! They have a big mountain as well as a bunny slope and offer gear rental packages with a lift ticket. Or you can purchase just a lift ticket if you have your own gear. The lift and rental rates are online. They are on the lower end of ski resorts in the area.
The resort is usually open until March 1, but that could change depending on weather conditions.
Sapphire Valley Resort
127 Cherokee Trail, Sapphire Valley, NC
Have you been to the Sapphire Valley Ski resort?