Does my bum look big in this tube?
With Cornwall kyboshed, and twelve year olds looking for birthday treats we thought Manchester’s Chill Factore might fit the bill. But why should kids have all the fun? I wanted to play in the snow too. So I booked us a tubing session. But what is tubing??
Do NOT cross the line
“Do not crash into the red sign or the system will shut down.”
I look around. There’s 100 people skiing. If I crash will they all come tumbling down?
Suddenly, getting off the conveyor belt seems harder than it looked. But it’s easier than climbing into a tyre on a slippery slope. The kids simply hop in and slide down. But I have eleven stone of body fat to fit in, including two Fatima thighs.
“Your legs go on the outside, with your bum in the middle,” explains the attendant patiently.
“No worries” I say, reverse parking with less finesse than an articulated lorry.
“Mum’s bum’s too big for the tyre,” shouts Cameron.
An icy fun factory
The Chill Factore is an icy fun factory, manufacturing year-round Alpine style activity at Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
At the entrance I feel giddy. Everyone is wearing ski jackets, clack clacking skis and snowboards and talking technique. There are cute wooden buildings, twinkling lights and apres ski options. Ooh la la. I’m on a mini break! Ok, it’s not St Anton, but there is late night shopping and good transport connections; we’re a snowball’s throw from the M60.
Get me, I’m a tube pro!
On my first go round, I reckon I’m a bit of a pro. Check out this video of me tubing. Do you think I’ll be ready in time for Rio 2016?
Me and my tyre head back up the conveyor belt, towards the red sign. I right myself after a stumble. Who put ice there? There are two tubing lanes, and one attendant, who kick starts us by kicking the tyre. I quickly work out he can’t be in two lanes at once. And I don’t want him pushing me off. Not until I’ve mastered the art of getting into the tyre. So I head to the lane he’s not in. But he’s nimble and seconds later he kicks my ring down the slope.
I ride back up with Matthew and we wait our turn at the top. Today is his twelfth birthday, and tubing at the Chill Factore is part of his present. In a few hours time it will be my birthday. From the day Matthew arrived, my birthday got relegated to ‘morning after’ status. By the time we’ve celebrated his, we are all too exhausted to celebrate mine. So we share the treat. And he gets to choose it. Because he’s twelve and I’m not.
The kids love tubing
“Isn’t this a great birthday?” says Matt putting his tyre down in the attendant free lane .
I smile weakly at my attendant ‘friend’. “Happy birthday,” he says pushing me off. I wonder what he’s thinking as snow flies in my face. Does he assume I’ve forgone Manchester’s culture and cuisine preferring to spend my birthday being booted downhill in an industrial rubber tyre?
Next run, I have two options. I can explain I’m a fan of foreign films and highbrow theatre, or I can avoid him. I choose the latter, heading towards the empty lane and plonking myself down quickly. But he’s quicker.
Tubing’s not going quite so well for me…
“You have a favourite lane do you?” he chuckles. Noooooooooo I don’t!
The kids are experimenting; lying flat on the tyres to get up extra speed. Cameron looks like a frozen penguin on a plate. in his orange helmet and black and white suit. I look like Elmer’s wife at a ballet class as I point my toes, bend my knees and reverse into the tyre. I decide to practise at the bottom with a more slender tyre. Big mistake as you can see in this video clip.
Best Birthday ever?
I try lying flat like the kids. And then find myself spread-eagled in front of the attendant. “How many times a day do you do this?” I ask, to disguise my embarrassment.
“It runs every hour, but we all swap around,” he says, giving me a shove. I blast down, almost bouncing off the ring. Did he think I was trying to find out when he’d next be on duty?
“You’ll have trouble topping this next year. It’s the best birthday ever,” says Matthew’s friend. He means it’s Matthew’s best party ever. But the attendant must think being rammed down a slope in a tyre beat my 21st, 30th and 40th birthdays.
“You’ll be upset to know this is your last go then,” he says, giving me a great big shove for an extra treat.
Time for apres-tubing
In the alpine pizza bar, the kids chatter excitedly.
“That was awesome,” says Matthew. I’m surprised. Our kids have been white water rafting in Iceland, biking on ice in Cumbria and bob sleighing in Slovakia. To me this attraction seemed a bit ‘safe.’ And was I alone in finding it a little overstaffed?
“It was the best birthday EVER.”
If I was twelve, perhaps I’d be inclined to agree. But I’m forty five (almost) and I suspect I’m better suited to that mini break in the Alps. But then it was very convenient. By ten o’ clock I’m home in bed with a hot drink and a novel. My only worry is that ring shaped parcel in the corner of the bedroom. I shut my eyes and pray it’s a giant doughnut.
Disclosure Note: We tried tubing at Manchester’s Chill Factore as part of the Moneysupermarket competition to find Britain’s best family days out. The experience, views and opinions expressed are however entirely our own. And we paid for our own pizza too.