High-energy country music is blaring from the outdoor speakers, and its 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.
Its not some far-off destination; its about an hours 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 its 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. (See details below.)
Reservations are recommended because each session is limited to 90 people to keep lines reasonable and maximize everyones time on the slopes.
Both businesses offer a convenient outing for families because they just have to grab their warm clothes and go. Theres 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.
Theres 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 suns out, get out and enjoy the fun, even if its 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, Sarahs husband, said his family has been coming to the hill for three years, and he likes that its 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 its an easy half-day trip.
You can still have the rest of your afternoon, Higuera said.
While tubing is the main attraction, Idaho X-Sports also rents cross country skis and snowshoes, and there are trails for both leaving from the tubing hill.
If you were feeling spunky, you could do both and get your giggles and also see some really cool terrain.
Or you could mix a tubing trip with a scenic sleigh ride and relax and let the horses do the work.
Days/hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Sundays. It will also be open on Idaho Human Rights Day, Jan 21 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Presidents Day, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Prices: $12 for one hour and $20 for two hours if you buy one to three tickets, $11 and $18 for four to nine tickets, and $10 and $17 for 10 tickets and up. Children under 35-inches tall ride free with adult.
Reservations: Strongly recommended to ensure you get to ride when you get there. Go to idahoxsports.com.
Notes: Plan to arrive at least a half hour before your riding time. You will need to register and sign waivers, and theres also a brief safety orientation before you take your first trip up the hill.
Skiing/snowshoeing: Trail passes are $12, and Nordic ski rentals are $20 and snowshoe rentals are $15, and rentals includes your trail pass.
Other stuff: Helmets and goggles are available for rent.
If you want to take things a little mellower, the sleigh ride is a good option.
The trip lasts about 30 to 40 minutes on flat terrain near the tubing hill. Sleigh rides cross a large meadow on the south side of the South Fork of the Payette River and continue along frozen ponds, near the river and near the forest.
Sleigh riders may see elk, bald eagles and other wildlife. The rides start and end in a heated wall tent, and theres a complimentary hot beverage at the end of the ride.
All ages are welcome. Sleigh rides run 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Rides are $20 per person, and children 12 and under and over age 55 get a 25 percent discount.
Groups of up to 12 people can also rent the entire sleigh for $200, and theres a four-person private sleigh available for $100.
Theres also sleigh ride and meal packages with meals served at the Longhorn Saloon in Crouch.
Dress warm with your full winter gear. You will be fully exposed to the weather while your on the sleigh.
For reservations or details: Call 462-3416 or go to idahosleighrides.com.
Getting there: From the Treasure Valley, take Idaho 55 north to the Banks to Lowman Highway turnoff at Banks toward Garden Valley. Go about a mile past Garden Valley to the Alder Creek Bridge and cross the South Fork of the Payette River. Follow the signs to the tubing hill. Its about 50 miles from the Intersection of Idaho 55 and State Street near Eagle.
Most of the trip is paved highway that is typically well maintained, but expect winter driving conditions. The road to the tubing hill is maintained and suitable for passenger cars.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors