The Big One

Gearing up for the most dangerous winter sport.

Nothing says winter like the excitement of speeding down a snow-covered hill on a giant uncontrollable inner tube. But before you hit the slopes (or they hit you), consider a few key factors: Do you want a tube with cold-resistant handles and PVC construction? Are you into funky, retro-style colors and patterns, or are you a meat-and-potatoes tuber who heads down to the neighborhood tire store to stock up on inner tubes? If price is an issue, the tire store is usually your best bet. Local chains like Les Schwab and Big O Tires offer standard-issue tubes for reasonable prices. At Les Schwab, a new tube costs just over $15, while used tubes can be had for as little as $8 apiece. Big O, on the other hand, sells its tubes by size, with tubes up to 5 feet in diameter priced up to $35 and small ones available for $12 or less.

If you’re eager to own the foxiest tube in town, however, you might want to shop online at sites like Finco Sport-n-Toys (, where a wide selection of colorful, tricked-out tubes ($12.95-$34.95) will make you feel like you’ve wiped out and gone to snow-tube heaven. Style vs. substance—the choice is yours. In any case, you can take the safety factor out of the equation, since tire-store inner tubes are just as inherently hazardous as their flashy commercial counterparts. So get out there, claim your tube, and show the snow who’s boss. See you in the ER.